Durga – Kumari Puja
Goddess Durga arrives to her earthly abode with her four children, Laskhmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. We worship her as the Goddess of Shakti who overpowered the evil to establish peace and prosperity on earth. She is also the daughter making her yearly visits at her parents place along with her children for four days. The Goddess is worshipped in various forms during her stay here. One of those forms is the “Kumari” the Virgin form.
This mould is the most powerful form of Mahashakti. A girl aged between one to sixteen, symbolising the Kumari form of Devi is worshipped in front of the idol of Goddess Durga. The Kumari form of the Goddess was emphasised as the most dynamic form by the devotees since yester years as Kumari Shakti is the basis of all creations. Our scriptures have emphasised Kumari Puja particularly to evolve the purity and divinity of the women of the society. Diminishing the larger than life stature of the Goddess to someone much nearer and closer is the real reason for this form of worship. Sri RamKrishna had said that Kumari is another form of Devi Durga and he himself worshipped Sarada Ma as Kumari. To imagine the Goddess in the mould of a Kumari is an age old concept. In Mahabharata Arjuna had performed Kumari Puja. The Puranas mention the Kumari form of Chandika.
Selection of Kumari______________
The scriptures mention the great care with which the Kumari is selected to be worshipped as the earthly representative of Devi Durga. The qualities required in the girl has to match the dynamism, purity and serenity of the Goddess. A calm, serene and an unmarried girl with a bright disposition between one to sixteen years, who has not yet reached her puberty and is bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger is the right requisite for the Kumari Puja.
Depending on the age of the girls they are worshipped in the various forms of the Goddess. A one year old girl is worshipped in the Sandhya form of the Devi while a two year old is worshipped in the Saraswati mould of the Devi. A three year old girl is worshipped in the Tridha form of Durga and a four year old is worshipped in the Kalika mould of the Devi. Subhaga and Uma are the forms of Durga for a five and a six year old respectively.
Malini form of the Goddess represents a seven year old while Kujjika represents a eight year old girl. Kalsondarbha and Aparajita stands for a ten year old girl and an eleven year old girl. Bhairavi is represented by a twelve year old girl and Mahalakhmi by a thirteen year old girl. Pitnayika, Khetragya and Ambika by a fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year old girl respectively.
Worshipping The Kumari________________
Kumari Puja is held on Ashtami or sometimes Nabami. Kumari Puja is performed in Annapurna, Jagatdhatri and even Kali Puja as without Kumari Puja, the yagna remains incomplete. In the dawn of Ashtami or Nabami, the Kumari is bathed in Ganga water and is clad in a red benarasi saari. She is then adorned with flowers and jewelry, alta is applied to her feet and a ’tilak’ of sindur on her
forehead. The young Kumari fasts the whole day until the puja is over. On a decorated chair she is made to sit before the goddess and a flower from the Devi’s hand is placed in her hand. Placed before her are flowers, bel (wood apple) leaves, incense sticks, lamps, ‘noibiddo’ and other things required for puja. The purohit then chants the mantras and the sound of dhak fill the atmosphere. After the puja the divinity of the Goddess Durga is said to be seen in the girl. It is customary to gift the girl with gold, silver and clothes. To gift the Kumari is considered to be a pious act.
Kumari Puja is very much prevalent in Belur Math. In 1902, Swami Vivekananda performed Kumari puja for the first time in Belur. In the premises of the Math, in the mandap, in the presence of Sarada Ma, Swamiji worshipped nine Kumari girls. He offered pushpanjali at their feet, gave them sweets and ‘dakshina’ (gift). He touched their feet after the completion of the puja. Later with meditation and mantras he worshipped Sarada Ma as Goddess Durga.