Shillong (Meghalaya ), Oct 26 : .Local girls prepare for Durga Puja well in advance .Among all the Ramakrishna Ashramas in the North Eastern Region Durga Puja was observed first at Shella only. Whereas tribal devotees through generations have been observing the Puja with utmost devotion several eminent monks also have participated there during the last 75 years. In fine, this Durga Puja at Shella sub-centre of Sohra Ashram is a well known traditional festival in the entire region of the country.
This tribal village on the bank of the beautiful rivulet becomes lively with enthusiasm during the days of Durga Puja as well as Kali Puja with Deepavali.
Most of the villagers residing outside come back to their respective homes during these Puja days. Music, prayers, devotional songs, mythological dramas, lamps and fire works greatly contribute to delight the people. Children as well as their parents in new clothes are seen everywhere in the village in large numbers.
All arrangements of the Puja including dressing of fruits and preparation of cooked Bhog are done by the tribal devotees themselves. Immersion of the image by the devotees in the evening of Vijaya Dashami through prayers and tears is really a scene to be seen.
Apart from Shella , the Pnars in Nartiang have been celebrating the Durga puja for hundreds of years .
The puja is held at Nartiang Durga Temple which is 600-year old located in West Jaintia Hills of the state . This temple is considered to be one of the Shakti Peethas like the Kamakhya Temple . Its believed that Devi’s left thigh had fallen at Nartiang in the Jaintia Hills.
Jayanteswari was the presiding deity of the Jaintia royalty and a central figure in the Niamtre faith. The Pnars of Jaintia Hills believe that Niamtre was a God-given religion that rested on the principles of honest livelihood), compassion towards fellow humans and brotherhood and respect of members of parent’s clans. The Nimatre faith involved worshipping a Mother Goddess and this got assimilated into the Shakti tradition of Sanatan Dharma.
Since the practitioners of the ancient Niamtre faith did not worship any Murtis, the tradition continues. During Durga Puja, the trunk of a banana tree is worshipped as Ma Durga.
The rites at the temple are not performed the conventional way as in the plains, but in a unique way, a blend of Hindu and ancient Khasi traditions. The local chieftain or Syiem is considered the chief patron of the temple. It is said that the locals of Jaintia kingdom weren’t aware and familiar with the Puja rituals, and since they could not find any Brahmins from neighboring Bangladesh or Assam to preside over this ritual and hence had to invite Deshmukh Brahmins from western India as priests.
The Jaintia kings are supposed to have practiced human sacrifice. Human sacrifice has now been replaced with animal sacrifice; goats and ducks are sacrificed on Ashtami.
The temple draws a large number of pilgrims from all over the country on occasion of Durga Puja. Even today, during Durga Puja, the Syiem sacrifices goats. Durga Puja is the most important festival of this temple. During Durga Puja, a banana plant is dressed up and worshipped as the Goddess. At the end of the four-day festivities, the plant is ceremoniously immersed in the Myntdu River.
Source : sohra@rkmn. org , Kreately