Associated with the Durga Puja, this puja is performed only by married women. The 'Kanya' or 'Balika' is considered a reincarnation of Goddess Durga who personifies knowledge and wisdom for the entire universe. Worshipping young girls (caste no bar with this one) is held in high esteem in Hindu scriptures and the place of such a worship is believed to be sanctified.
My brief awareness and knowledge of this custom began 'n ended with this basic awareness, that the puja is performed on the ninth day of Dusshera. No other significance was known to me till now. Why do I then want to know more now?
In this stage of life with parenting, I want to Sia to become aware and realise the magnificient festivals and their celebrations we have - only because we are INDIANS. Yes, she knows we live in a country called India and we are called Indians. So why not begin this festive season by 'inducting' her into an entire world of joy, happiness, colours, sparkles, mithai and all that is just so WOW!!
So...I read up as well as gathered information from my fellow resident on the significance of why Sia was one of the Durgas? The puja is essentially performed for the Goddess to bless you with happiness and prosperity. One of the information thread mentions each of the nine days has its own significance in terms of rituals, puja, offering (prasad) and gifts for the Balika.
On the ninth day, the day Sia was invited, the puja for 9 Durgas was performed. It started with washing of feet, applying the teeka, seeking blessings (by touching the feet of the young girls. This had another young Durga rightly question the reverse of what is happening being taught: of younger people touching the feet of elders) giving a dakshina (in cash), a dupatta, a silk bag with fruits and serving the traditional bhog consisting of puri (dough kneaded with milk), kala chana, kheer (made with rice and milk) and dry fruits. This puja marks the end of nine days of puja and signifies the custom of seeing off the Goddess back to her home as a young girl.
Sia taking the Durga avatar seriously before the puja and an excited little balika after the puja with her goodies.
While all this was being thoroughly enjoyed by a highly enthusiastic and involved Sia, it made me realise that I have unlocked the next level of being a mother. A level wherein the need to belong becomes supreme. A need to belong and be part of something - be it a culture, family, activist group, friend circle, music band, library, anything - anything which defines who we are and gives us an outlook. I am taking the course of culture this time, to give Sia an experience which will not just give her nostalgic memories, but will also give her the foundation to belong.
I believe in the spirit of every festive season. This spirit translates itself to joy within oneself and smiles everywhere you see. Being a by-product of cross-religion marriage, Sia and the likes of Sia have those many more options to know more and celebrate much more than I did.
Now begins the wait for Diwali...another story to be unfolded.