Navratri ends with Durga idol immersions, Ravan burning


New Delhi : The nine-day Navratra celebrations came to an end here Thursday evening with the immersion of idols of Goddess Durga and the burning of the effigies of demon king Ravan.

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Amid hollering crowds and the frenzied beating of drums, hundreds of idols of Durga and her four children were immersed in the Yamuna river here, with many devotees bidding a tearful farewell to the deity.

For many Bengalis, the immersion at the end of the Durga Puja festival was like parting with a member of the family after five days of praying, feasting and merry-making at marquees across the city that housed the idols.

Emotionally-charged chants in Bengali of “Hail the mother goddess! She’ll return next year!” reverberated across the calm riverbed, as devotees thronged the immersion point at Kalindi Kunj in southeast Delhi.

“We have just immersed our idol from our house puja. This has been a tradition for ages – 30 of our family members and friends take out a procession from our home and immerse the goddess’ idol in the waters of the Yamuna here,” said Nipa Nag Chowdhury, a 40-year-old homemaker.

Each year her family organises a family puja at their home in Chittaranjan Park, a predominantly Bengali colony in south Delhi.

The final day of the festivities is called Vijaya Dashami or Bijoya, when Durga – the goddess of strength – triumphs over the demon Mahishasura, signifying the victory of good over evil.

On this day, the morning is marked by a ritual called ‘sindur khela’, when women smear vermilion on one another, signifying the return of Durga to her marital abode.

In the afternoon, the idols of Durga and her children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik – that were worshipped for five days at hundreds of marquees across the city were loaded on to trucks.

Hundreds of processions comprising these trucks and buses loaded with devotees as well as private vehicles then spilled on to the streets and made their way to the Yamuna banks.

Some of the idols were taken to Kalindi Kunj. The other immersion point near Delhi University was for idols from north Delhi.

After the serial blasts in Delhi Sep 13, which left 24 killed and over 100 injured, the security arrangements for the Durga immersions along the procession routes and at the Yamuna banks were tight.

“This year the security has been so tight that unlike in other years we were not able to take a boat to immerse our idol. Instead, we had to wade into the waters. Only police were monitoring the immersions from boats,” Nag Chowdhury added.

Her daughter Yagna said after several days of festivity, the parting left everyone said, almost tearful.

“After immersing the idol I realised that festivities had come to an end. I am very sad, and letting Ma Durga go each year is very painful for us. We plan all year for the pujas and wait for this time of the year, but suddenly it’s over.”

In other parts of the city, wild cheering and applause rent the air as effigies of Ravan, his brother Kumbhakaran and his son Meghnad exploded in a brilliant display of fireworks to mark Dussehra, the grand finale of the Navratri celebrations.

Celebrating the victory of good of evil, the huge effigies of the three demons put to torch, setting off pyrotechnic fireworks display at the Subhash Maidan, near the walled city, watched by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila DIkshit and other politicians.

The scene was similar in hundreds of other parks and open spaces across the capital as the nine-day Ramlila celebrations came to an end. People decked in new clothes watched the annual spectacle as the police kept a close watch over the proceedings.

Before the effigies were burnt, various chapters from the Hindu epic Ramayana were enacted by artistes complete with their dazzling outfits, heavy jewellery, accessories and brightly painted faces.

At smaller gatherings, a priest read out excerpts from the epic and for the benefit of crowds artistes rendered dialogues in local parlance.

“Watching the scenes from Lord Ram’s life is an age-old tradition. We were captivated by the Ravanvadh (killing of the demon king)”, said Sohan Lal, a resident of Shalimar Bagh who works as a peon in a factory.