The Other Side of Durga Puja You Never Knew About


Growing up as a kid, when I would see the traffic and number of people out on the streets increase significantly starting from the middle of September, it was an easy indication that Durga Puja was just around the corner.

This annual Hindu festival Durga puja is celebrated primarily by the Bengali community. It is held in the month of Ashvin (Hindu calendar). It marks the victory of goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. It embodies the triumph of good over evil, but it also marks the harvest period of the season. Celebrate the goddess and her gift of life on earth.

Seek the blessings for humanity

Family and social gatherings mark the celebrations. People buy new clothes, gifts, and  pray to the goddess for her blessings and feasting. People come together from all walks of life in this period to celebrate the good in life and forget all their worries.

But as the saying goes that ‘With the good comes the bad,. There is a hidden or not very well known fact about Durga Puja which is never brought into the light. For many of you reading this for the first time, it might come as a surprise or a complete shock.

Prostitutes contribution to Durga Puja

You probably will never believe it and stop reading right now, thinking that it must be a tasteless joke to write about prostitution and Durga Puja together. Worse, you might be cursing at this piece of writing for even suggesting that two worlds; one a holy practice and another, an unthinkable way of life (for most of society), would collide with each other even in the most insignificant manner. But if you look closer and ask around, the relation between the two is more significant than you might think.

The very idols handcraft to perfection for the numerous pandals. They organize across the regions where Durga Puja celebration occurs. The best thing is that they are made from the soil underneath the feet of sex workers. That soil, known as punya maatiis an essential ingredient which artisans use while making the idols of Durga Maa. This practice was even highlighted on a large scale by the Bollywood movie ‘Devdas,’ but the reason behind it was left in the dark.

Durga puja symbolizes the purity of life

The soil from the home of a sex worker symbolizes the purity of life. When people visit the sex worker’s home, they come back leaving behind their pure selves. Thus, this ‘purity’ they leave behind collects in the form of the soil from the home of a sex worker.

The priests or the artisans who make the idols have the responsibility to go a month ahead of time. They beg at the doorstep of the sex workers to take back some of the soil from their homes. They cannot take it away of their own will and must offer them otherwise it seems meaningless. The sex workers also have the option of refusing to let them take what they seek. This makes this exercise sometimes a dramatic affair in Durga puja .

Another popular belief is that the soil symbolizes the inclusiveness of the women. The society shuns them for their way of living, in Durga puja once a year. They think that if the sex workers do not include then, goddess Durga will not be happy and won’t give her blessings to her devotees. This is mainly to show that no one from society isolates and we are all equal in the eyes of the goddess.

This practice is famous in West Bengal today, but its true meaning and purpose is not there.

The true face of human society

This practice could not have been more hypocritical in and of itself, no matter how hard we tried. The soil underneath a woman’s feet gives the goddess herself shape. While that same woman is shameful by society for the rest of the year.

Aren’t they women too? Aren’t they mothers too? Who are we to chastise them for what they do to survive while men continue to abuse them and then conveniently go and ask them for some ‘pure’ soil in the name of the goddess.

The goddess doesn’t discriminate

The one thing we can take from this is that all things in this universe connect together. We need to focus on the plight of these women. They need our understanding and help because they are human too. Most importantly, they are all mothers or sisters to someone, and each one of them is a Durga in the eyes of Durga Maa herself.