Bengal family to worship Muslim child as Durga following Swami Vivekananda’s example
Four year old Fatima, whose father Muhammad Tahir runs a grocery store near Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, will be worshipped as Durga on Mahaashtami, the second day of the four-day puja, by the Duttas at Baguiati in North 24 Parganas district.Updated: Sep 20, 2019 21:17 IST
Hundred and twenty one years after Swami Vivekananda worshipped a Muslim boatman’s little daughter as goddess Durga in Kashmir, a family in the northern fringes of Kolkata is all set to follow in his footsteps during Bengal’s biggest festival next month.
Four year old Fatima, whose father Muhammad Tahir runs a grocery store near Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, will be worshipped as Durga on Mahaashtami, the second day of the four-day puja, by the Duttas at Baguiati in North 24 Parganas district.
Although Kumari Puja is performed in many homes and temples in the state, no family is known to have worshipped a Muslim girl in the recent history, priests HT spoke to, said.
Tamal Dutta, an engineer at Kamarhati municipality in the North 24 Parganas, and his lawyer-wife Moushumi, started Kumari puja with a Brahmin girl in 2013 but decided to break away from the tradition by inviting children from non-Brahmin and Dalit families in later years.
Kumari Puja, or Kanya Puja is the worship of girls who have not attained puberty as the human form of the Goddess.
“This year we wanted a Muslim child for our Kumari Puja but did not know who to approach. I asked my colleagues for help and Muhammad Ibrahim, a resident of Kamarhati, eventually volunteered. He talked to his sister in Agra and sent me a photo of his niece. We were overwhelmed,” said Tamal Dutta. “I feel overjoyed. We strictly follow old rituals. This Puja will be memorable,” added his wife.
Fatima’s mother Bushra Bibi, who arrived at Kamarhati with the child two weeks ago, said she was “honoured” by the invitation from the Duttas.
“At a time when Hindu-Muslim relations are under strain in some parts of the country, acts like this can revive the faith in humanity,” said Fatima’s Uncle Muhammad Ibrahim.
Kumari Puja is part of Navratri celebrations in central and northern India but in Bengal, it is performed on the day of Mahaashtami during Durga Puja.
In 1898, Vivekananda stayed for a few days in Kashmir on return from Amarnath shrine. He was at Kshir Bhabani to perform Kumari Puja on Mahaashtami when he had a vision after spotting a boatman’s girl. He requested the boatman to allow him to worship the child. The boatman readily agreed. Vivekananda worshipped the girl and touched her feet. Later, in 1901, he started the ritual during Durga Puja at Belur Math in Bengal’s Howrah district. It has been continuing since then and draws millions of devotees.