KOLKATA: Thousands of devotees from all over the country and abroad watched ‘Kumari Puja’ or the worship of a prepubescent girl on Mahashtami on Tuesday at Belur Math
— the global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. People thronged Durga Puja pandals (marquees) across West Bengal to make offerings and participate in the worship of pre-pubescent girls. Chanting hymns, the young and the old offered anjali (prayer) and stood in long queues before idols of the goddess Durga.
Belur Math in Kolkata’s twin district Howrah, about 10 km from here, saw a sea of humanity as people watched the monks worship a Kumari as the ‘Mother Goddess’. The sacred ritual is an integral part of Mahashtami. According to Hindu mythology, Kumari Puja was started to establish the value of women. The maiden who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on the earth. Kumari Puja was resurrected by spiritual leader Ramakrishna Paramahansa in the late 19th century.