The 5 day Durga Puja extravaganza concludes with the immersion of the idols. While she is the all powerful Mother Goddess – Ma Durga , she is also Uma the proverbial loving daughter who visits her maternal home with her brood in autumn. Apart from the regular worship to invoke her blessings the fun and food that mark all days is in celebration of her home coming. With her job done of reducing human misery and pain and showing us the blessed path she leaves for her abode in Kailash on Dashami day where her consort Lord Shiva is awaiting her arrival.
Idol worship is a mirror for our consciousness. At the start of the worship (Puja), all forms of nature are invoked and our consciousness is invoked and the idol is energized. As the worship continue through the days we slowly surrender our weaknesses in anticipation of emancipation which is akin to killing all our inner devils. At the end the idol is immersed which is symbolic of immersing and destroying our inner weaknesses. The traditional puja is completed after the priest shakes the “Kalash” that was placed to welcome her and performs Darpan Visarjan (Mirror Immersion). A mirror is placed on a plate of water to absorb the energy from the idol and everyone around is encouraged to view the reflection of the idol and her feet through the mirror. Ladies of the house then bid her goodbye with sweets and vermilion and also apply vermilion on each other as a mark of happiness and long and happy married life.
Immersion in Outram Ghat and Babughat
Later in the evening the idols are taken to the riverside for immersion. I spent a few hours along Outram Ghat and Babughat along the Hooghly River in Kolkata watching immersion proceedings. The dhaki beats, the setting sun, the mild September breeze added to the already electric atmosphere. The idols were being brought in trucks and then taken off one by one, taken down the steps after circumambulating 3 times and then dropped in water. The 3 times is symbolic of the 3 planes Earth, Heaven and Hell and a similar ritual is performed in death. One person in the group would walk deep into the river along with the idol handing over the idol to the civic authorities. While he took a dip and emerged with a pot of water, the civic staff would then lift it out of water to reduce pollution.
As one idol after another found its way in water, I could feel a deep vacuum inside, something I have not known before. With moist eyes, I wish to welcome her again and again every year to herald autumn and bless us for fulfillment of our wishes and desires!! Until then it is Shubho Bijoya !! ie wishing each other for happiness and well being emerging victorious after vanquishing the devils with Maa Durga’s blessings.
Immersion Viewing Tip:
Make a trip to Outram Ghat around 3pm and spend the next 2-3 hours watching the idols being immersed. Most of these are small idols which have been worshiped at home.Find a vantage position on top to view the idols being brought down. I have been lucky to go right unto the river during the earlier years which is not allowed now due to safety concerns. The larger idols are brought in late into the night. Walk along the Hooghly at dusk and watch the sunset create a ethereal environment.