A five-year-old girl has been worshipped as living embodiment of goddess Durga in Tripura, at a time when aborting female fetus is common in many parts of India, especially in the northern provinces.
The ritual of ‘Kumari Puja’ was organized by Anandamoye Ashram in Agartala on Sunday. Hundreds of devotees gathered to take part in the celebration of Basanti Puja and worship the Kumari Devi.
Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent Brahmin girls as manifestation of the divine female energy or Devi in South Asian countries. Kumari literally means virgin in Sanskrit.
Kumari puja is another way of paying gratitude to the Supreme Goddess. Young girls who haven’t yet hit puberty are worshipped as the embodiment of the divine forms of Goddess Durga.
The ritual of Kumari puja, a significant part of Maha Ashtami worship, was started in 1901 by the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission (RMRM), Swami Vivekananda.
An unmarried girl, who has not yet reached puberty and is bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger, is selected for the ritual to highlight the importance of women.
The preparation for the ritual which started over two months ago, culminated in the girl being worshiped exactly as goddess Durga on the eighth day or Maha Asthami – the most auspicious of the nine-day Durga puja festival.
At the break of dawn, the Kumari was bathed, draped in a red sari, adorned with flowers and jewellery and “sindur (vermillion) tilak” applied on her forehead.
The young Kumari fasts the whole day until the puja is over. She is made to sit before the goddess’s idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and dhak (traditional drum) being played in the background.
The ritual is followed across India, but is highly popular in regions like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Some families also choose to do Kanjak or Kanya Puja on Ram Navami where nine little girls are worshiped.
According to religious beliefs, after the puja, the divinity of the goddess is believed to descend into the Kumari.
The concept behind the Kumari puja is to worship the divine mother in human. Though there is no record of who started the Kumari Puja, according to the Rig Veda, it was prevalent in ancient India. But Swami Viveananda made it popular by introducing Kumari puja at Ram Krishna Math in Belur in 1901.