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Holier-than-thou justification of the relation between Durga Puja and sex workers

If a soil blob from right outside the house of a sex worker is a must for idol-making, then why they are out-casted from the society?

The festivities of Durga Puja have begun in the city, and the streets are lined up with banners and LED light panels. Like every year, the city will witness the madness around the festival and the Durga Idol. In Bengal, the puja pandals usually house the idol of Durga and her four children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Karthik.

Mostly, these majestic idols are sculpted at Kumartuli. According to the Hindu rituals, the Durga idol needs to have these four things – cow urine, cow dung, mud from the river Ganges and soil collected from outside the homes of sex workers.

Yes, as per the rituals, the idols that do not consist of the ‘Punya Mati’ or the soil from the homes of sex workers are incomplete.  When the reason behind it was searched and sought for, both Mr Know-it-all (Google) and Brahmins gave different versions.

Google’s too-good-to accept reasons

As per the tradition, the pandit or purohit performing the Durga puja rituals goes to a sex worker’s home and beg for some soil. While the woman gives him the soil, he chants some mantra. This mantra helps in purging her sins.

A Google search about this revealed that ‘when a man enters a sex worker’s home, he leaves all his purity at her doorstep’. Therefore, the soil right outside her house is the purest soil. Behind this so-good reason, a question that does not seem to leave my mind any soon is — How can a blob of soil remain pure when touched by a most impure soul? Also, the mantra is chanted after handing over the soil blob to the priests for purifying her soul. The acclaimed learned society has failed to explain the division of the land to this writer. If a house is impure along with its owners, how can a ball of soil right outside her home become so pure?

Oh! Another patriarchal blooper! I am a man. I can do anything and come out clean. I can be pure even after having an affair with a sex worker as I leave my purity outside her door and can again wear it after my gala time. My Gosh!! What a shuddering soul am I!.

Oh! Do you mean respecting female energy?

According to folklore, in the battle between evil and truth, the demon king Mahishasura had tried to molest Goddess Durga. But the Devi, with the help of her divine powers, superseded the king and emerged victoriously. The customary practice symbolises paying respects and reverence to someone who is looked down upon by society. The contradiction lies in bold and boldest – my dear women who are nothing more than mere life-idols of so-called society, it is your male relative who is taking advantage of someone’s destitute. Kindly understand that. If he can remain guilt-free and is permitted to do the main ‘aarti’, you are not following the main essence of the victory, i.,e., respecting the female energy.

Also, if a sex worker is forced to sell their body for some meagre sum just to fill her stomach, she does not need society’s validation and respect towards her female energy only for a day. She can earn her bread without bowing down to a hypocritical society (indications are loud and clear).

The partly inclusion of all

This is the Brahmins’ most favourite reason. The practice includes everyone in the most celebrated festival of Bengalis. But what about the degree of inclusiveness. Even though the idols cannot be made without the soil from right outside the home of sex workers, they are still not made to feel homely in a pandal. Remember the scene from Sharukh Khan’s Devdas, when Madhuri Dixit was humiliated for taking part in the festivities. Yes, it is still prevalent.

Holier-than-thou justification of the relation between Durga Puja and sex workers
The sex workers in societal captivity/ Source: Indiatimes

If you (the respected Hindus of the society who also partly endorse hypocrisy) cannot include a sex worker and her kin in the bhog and other customaries, then please don’t brag about including them in parts and bits.

Paying respect to courtesans

A long time back, before women were treated as sex workers and kept aside from the mainstream society, they were courtesans who used to gain praise for their art all across the state. The ritual is a token of respect to those courtesans. The pandit begs some soil in remembrance of the art.

According to the writer, this argument is a final attempt to make a non-judicious justification seem valid. The questions are still the same. Why women were reduced to sex workers from a respectable courtesan and tabooed in society? What led to such derogation of an art form in society?  It is a clear justification of the renowned saying – History is the best defence during a crisis.

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Sayantika Bhowal

Sayantika Bhowal is a news connoisseur who is particularly interested in politics and human interest stories. She holds More »
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