MA AASCHEN – Idol Making and Stories of Durga Puja

“Durga mohamaya, songe aschen Lakhi, Sorosati, Kartik and Gonesha, deshe porte debena kono bipoder chhaya”- Durga Ma along with Laskmi, Saraswati, Karthik and Ganesha has come to protect us from evil.

  • Are you curios to know the nuances of idol making?
  • Have you ever thought how the beautiful idols of Ma Durga is made and the nuances of the making the idol?
  • Does the word Dakker Saaj ring bells in your mind?
  • Do you know the significance of using soil from brothel in making of Ma Durga idol?

If you are seeking the answers for the above read through my walk through the by lanes of CR park in search of the same.

Shankh (conches) baaje, dhak (drums) baaje, shobhai (everyone) saaje, ma aasche. We get goosebumps hearing the first sound of dhakis play. It is a divine feeling to hear the sounds of shankh. A vibrant festival full or colours, full of joy, moment of celebration for one and all. Ma Durga symbolizes courage, power, victory over the evil.

Hopping pandals, eating misthi, bhog prasad, colorful attire, sindhoor khela, I am sure we all do this and wait a whole year for the same. I wanted to go deeper into the roots of Durga puja and idol making. The first opportunity I got to explore the by lanes of Chittaranjan park and explore the roots and stories of Durga puja and witness making of idol I jumped for it.

I participated in a walk organized by Delhibyfoot led by co-founder Ramit Mitra. Sunday morning up and excited I reached Chittranjan park. Interesting stories of how Durga puja came to existence, how CR park was formed were discussed over a cup of “Cha” hot lemon tea and savory snack.

There are many things spoken and written about Durga puja, so through this blog I will share some exciting and different things I heard and what I took back as memories of this wonderful walk.

Rocker Ada. I am sure a non-bengali would be anxious to know what it is. A few rocks piled up and a sit out is made where bengalis meet to have cups and cups of tea, discuss politics, football, play a game of carom is what signifies rocker ada. We were surprised just besides to the tea stall was a small sit out with carom board and light on it to play during evening time. A perfect rocker ada destination of CR park.

Have you ever tried making something out of wet clay or mud? Tried giving it a shape or molding it? I have done it and trust me it isn’t easy. Mud cracks up, unable to mold the right shape, breaks up if too dry. Imagine how artisans mold such beautiful and unique idols of Ganesha, Ma Durga. Curious to know more than read my journey through the idol making of Ma Durga.

Inside the premises of Kaali Bari temple we had our first experience with idol making of Durga puja. I was in awe with the huge idols of Durga ma, Kartikeya, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati in making. These 5 god and goddess are made of clay and under one structure called ek- chala. Artisans were all busy with molding the clay and bringing them to life through these huge idols. Beautiful expressive eyes of Ma Durga also has anger on her face when she is killing demon Mahishasur. Such unique blend of beauty and anger expressed through the same idol.

Layers of soil from different places like beaches, river bed, brothel is used to make the creative idols. Reason of bringing soil from different parts is to bring inclusiveness. One more interesting thing which I recollect is the soil that is brought from brothel is used in making of idol. The reason for the same is whenever a man visits a prostitute he leaves his purity and virtue at the doorstep. So all the pureness get accumulated at the doorstep hence the soil from the doorstep of brothel is used in making idol of ma durga

There is also a different thought behind using the soil from brothel.In old days the tawaifs danced on the mud floor. Continuous dancing on mud floor made it soft. This soft mud gave very nice texture and shape to the idols. Isn’t this interesting??

These artisans leave their homes and come live in a new city making these beautiful idols so we all can worship them and get blessings from Ma Durga. Artisans like Govind dada, Manick dada have magic in their hands. The raw form of Ma Durga face is so expressive and brings so much emotions.

How did Durga puja start lots have been written and readily available on google. What caught my attention or what I remembered from the discussion is as common people were not allowed to visit Durga puja organized by Zamindars. 12 friends came together and decided to start their own Durga puja. Initially started in a small-scale known as baroyaari pujo now is famous as barwadi puja. Such small interesting stories were highlights of the walk.

We explored the by lanes of CR park and reached one more idol making workshop. Smell of wet mud, different types of mud, soft, sticky, rough was a sight that invited us to this workshop. It is a photographer’s paradise. Beauty can be captured in a raw form. Spoke to artisans they have so many hardships they work for long hours, sleep in same place with mosquitoes breeding, they miss their families, due to rains the idols are taking time to dry making it difficult to finish on timelines and deliver it.

Do u know the decoration of Durga ma which is done by silver ornaments is also called as “Dhakker Saaj”. Daak is post, saaj is decoration. Can you link these two and tell me what is it? In olden days zamindars used to decorate the idols of Ma Durga with silver ornaments and the silver ornaments used to be imported from Germany. The imported silver ornaments used to come to India through ships and later sent by post to West Bengal. That how Dakker Saaj came into existence.

There is a common thread between Ma durga killing demon Mahishasur and Shri Ram killing Ravan. They both killed them on tenth day of the ashivna month hence we celebrate dushera / vijay dashmi to celebrate the victory over the evil. Therefore every year in ashvina month of hindu calender Ramleela and Durga puja both are celebrated.

I ended this walk trying to do few dance steps with dhunuchi. Tried for the first time was a wonderful feeling to hold dhunuchi and dance. It is not easy as it looks as it is heavy to hold and dance with, also the smoke from it makes it difficult to dance for a long time. These are amazing experiences to cherish for lifetime.

This walk has left me with a special respect to all the creative artisans who sweat out day in and night to make these beautiful idols and give us opportunity to pray and worship Ma Durga. Images of craftsman working, shaping the idols, coloring it, various different forms of Ma Durga, amazing stories which I never heard or read before are memories I will carry from this walk.

Some memories change the way you look at things and this walk has done the same to me. Now whenever I step into Durga pandal and get mesmerized by the beauty of Ma Durga I will pray for and also thank the artisans behind the creative work.

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Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh…goes the raft

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when anyone says Rafting???

Rishikesh- one of the world’s best place to experience rafting. White water, grade 1, 2, 3 rapids, people from across the globe travel here for rafting experience. How can the quest within me to experience this adventure be unfulfilled? Rafting in Rishikesh has been on my bucket list since 9 years after the first time I did rafting in kolad near mulshi pune.

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Fascination towards adventure sports pulled me to Rishikesh. I chose to do the 26 km stretch from Marine drive to Lakshman Jhula. This stretch takes approximately 4.5-5 hrs. with 16 rapids of Grade 2 and Grade 3.

Interested to know how i backpacked in Rishikesh read Land of Temples and youngsters paradise

Rafting is not merely like rowing the raft we have to maneuver the rafts through difficult forces of water, rocks and rapids. A group of only 8 people are allowed in a raft. A team of unknown people assembled for our first set of instructions. We wore our safety floatable devise and helmet and we were all set to take plunge into river Ganga. After all the selfies, groupies, discussing who sits where in the raft we all waited for our group coach to come who would lead and guide us through the journey.

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We all settled in our positions in the raft. Instructions followed how to row front and back, different instructions that we have to follow while rafting. I had done rafting before, but still as it was first time on mighty Ganges I was slightly anxious. There was a couple in our group who were regular to rafting so they sat in front to take the lead.

Yippee finally we started our 26 km journey down the river. As amateur rafters our raft went in a different direction and at a point our raft was just moving round at the same place. Our coach stopped us and asked us to follow his instructions. At Rishikesh rafting can be enjoyed the best from 26 Km stretch. If you do stretches of 16km and less there is no time to learn to row the raft and enjoy doing it as rapids start immediately. We slowly got hold of rowing and started enjoying it. Suddenly our coach shouted throw the pedals inside the raft and jump into the water.

Yes, you heard it right, we were baffled. I was tempted to jump, but scared too. The coach said trust me jump into the water and hold the ropes. I jumped into the cold Ganges River. We froze as the water was cold. An experience which only can be felt by being there. Suddenly the force of water changed and the raft was moving up and down that is when we realized we were floating in the river on the rapids.

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All the anxiousness and fear was taken over by exhilaration and surprise. We all were clinging to the ropes of the raft. Our coach started pulling each one of us up. Sitting in front of the raft and the experience water all over the face is what I wanted to do next. We all used to get over excited seeing the rapid coming. Every rapid has a unique name given as per the flow of the rapid or the place.

Hearing our coach tell us about the rapids, its name and significance made the journey more worthwhile. After crossing rapids everyone in the group used to touch our pedals together and shout “ Hey,Hey,Hey” “Yeeeyyyyy”. It was time to jump in water again, this time more willingly and more thrilled I took plunge into the river. Tranquil and poised I floated in the river. Blue skies above, the sun slowly moving up, floating in cold water felt like a dream.

A kayak was following us for our safety to help in case of uncertainties. Person rowing the kayak used to amaze us with his various stunts. Turn the entire kayak, go inside the water and come out, trash water with pedal on all of us with full force. He maneuvered the kayak incredibly through the rapids. When we started, instructions were given how to hold on to the kayak in front and back when it came to rescue. The inquisitive side of me wanted to try it. I asked the kayak to come closer and I grabbed at it. Now I was floating away from a raft in the middle of river Ganges holding on to one end of the kayak.

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Before starting for the journey of rafting visualizing myself floating right in middle of River Ganges would have felt like a dreadful task. Jumping into water from the raft, floating holding to kayak, two milestones achieved now turn for the next one.

I now moved to the front of the raft as a pro to lead the team. I had to row with full force and also ensure coordination with my fellow member to my left side so that raft moved further in the proper direction. It was time for one of the biggest rapids, we were rowing slowing. With the full force water just splashed all over me making me completely wet. Wow…wow…wow. I wasn’t angry or irritated by getting wet what I wanted is more of it.

Views around the trail of rafting were stunning. As we started early climate was pleasant. There came a point where we saw people jumping off the cliff. I was warned before I started the journey I would be made to jump off the cliff. Our misfortune the water levels that day were low and nearby rocks were visible. For safety reasons we were asked not to attempt to jump off the cliff. Maggie lovers, there is a Maggie point where you can halt and enjoy hot piping Maggie.

We continued our journey to explore more rapids. At the next rapid we followed instructions of our coach and didn’t realize we were leading our raft over a big rock. Before we could realize our raft went over the rock and came down without titling and flowed smoothly ahead. Having an experienced and professional coach makes the experiences go to a different level. I didn’t want the journey to end, but as all good things come to an end our rafting journey also came to an end

We got down, lifted our raft up the slope and placed it down. Made new friends, unforgettable memories and returned back with a promise to come back soon to live the beautiful experience all over again.

THREE GENERATIONS TREK TO TRIUND

Land of Temples and youngsters paradise

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Cool breeze and rising sun welcomed me into the holy city of Rishikesh. White water flowing fiercely and holy bells ringing in temples made me realize journey in the holy land has just begun. Long weekend was about to start and the wanderlust in me started pinching me. I couldn’t just sit at home or stick to the routine. Booked bus tickets, packed my sack and headed off to Rishikesh on Thursday night. Just booked the last available bed in a dorm in a hostel, as long weekends can get difficult to find a decent accommodation and with no itinerary in mind I set to explore the city on my own.

Backpacking budget trips help u learn a lot. Boarded a share auto paid Rs 10 and I reached the hostel. As many of my first’s this was my first experience of staying in a hostel. I reached very early and didn’t want to waste my half day waiting for check-in. Young chap 16-17 yrs old was in charge of the reception and I got into a discussion with him. Quickly made up a plan, hired a two wheeler, freshened up and started my ride up the hills- 30 km to Nelkanth temple– a temple with special powers and amazing views.

Having done mountain trips on my scooty before this wasn’t new to me. First stop was Laxman Jula as my route to the temple passed through laxman jhula I just took a quick 10 mins break. Was amazed by the construction of laxman zhula. It connects two villages across the river at a height of 70 feet above river. Tourists are attracted to this place due to its mythological association. It is believed that Laxman brother of Ram crossed the river on jute rope at the same point hence it is named after him. I was more excited that I will be riding on the laxman jhula to cross and go ahead with my journey. Quick selfies and an instant photo by a local cameraman I continued my journey.

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Stretches of hills were rocky but I was enjoying the ride. Water fiercely flowing below and it felt as I am going against it and climbing up and going farther from it. Was awe-struck to see the view of the holy Ganges as I kept going higher. Few bikers crossing by were heading towards the famous adventure place for bungee jumping. Small cars, bikes and other vehicles started joining me in my ride up to the temple.

Neelkanth temple as name suggests is a temple of lord Shiva. Pushing through the crowd entered the temple to offer my prayers. A unique thing caught my eye, a tree surrounded by lots of trishuls. Inquisitive to know the significance of so many trishuls I approached the purohit. It is believed that Lord Shiva had left his trishul there. The place has amazing vibrations. People make a wish and leave a trishul there with a belief it will be fulfilled. These are stories of locals around. Lord Shiva had consumed poison during samudra manthan at this very place where the temple stands now.

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Ride up was little tiring but riding down was very easy. Next I headed towards waterfall. Sounds of waterfall could be heard as I kept climbing up the stream to reach the place. Small tea stall, smell of maggi and little crowd was sight at the falls. Water always tempt me to take a plunge. Water level was above my waist but below my shoulders I walked upto the place of waterfall.

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Thud, thud, thud water hitting hard on my head and body I was full drenched in water. Enjoyed to my heart’s content I finally stepped out of the pool of water. After getting soaked to the skin hot tea and maggi came to the rescue. Don’t need a fancy beach side resort to dip legs in water and enjoy your food. This small place had it all. Small tables laid in small waterbeds you could dip your legs in water and enjoy hot tea and maggi. Got into discussion with the tea stall guy who was 55+ yr. old asked him why you are alone and no one to help. He said son got angry as I shouted at him and he left so I am left to manage all on my own. Many people like him were trying to earn their living through such small works and still they were so content in lives.

To read about my previous adventure trip visit THREE GENERATIONS TREK TO TRIUND

Hot sun started following me on my ride back to hostel. Checked in to my dorm took a quick nap then headed to a quaint café for lunch. View of Ganges and a quite small café relished a peaceful lunch. Evening had plans to go other side of the city towards ram jhula. As I was riding down towards ram jhula saw a small kid asking for lift would be 9-10 yrs old. I stopped my vehicle and asked him where he was headed to. He wanted to go in same direction as mine so I asked him to hop on. Asked him what he was doing there. He said he had come to visit his relatives and was seeking lift to go back home. In cities we fear to send kids down alone even to play in garden and here up in hills kids travel to different place all by themselves. I dropped him at this destination and went ahead.

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As the sun was setting down I headed towards the famous Ganga aarti at parmarth ashram. Was confused between triveni ghat arti and parmarth ashram aarti. I had heard aarti in parmarth ashram is performed by the students who come to learn at ashram so I chose to head there. It was mahavir jayanthi the place was crowded. There was a special aarti and recitation for mahavir jayanti. It is ideally better to reach an hour before the scheduled aarti to get a suitable place and be able to watch the aarti from close proximity.

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As a special performance for mahavir jayanti 7-8 foreign tourist recited bhajan in Sanskrit and the entire crowd enjoyed it in full silence. I was in full awe of their performance. Hearing them sing song in Sanskrit was spellbinding. Cool evening breeze, ringing of bells and chants of thousands of pilgrims and tourist makes the aura of the place inexplicable. After the bhajan the famous Ganga aarti started. All the students and the guru performed the aarti. Later on small lanterns were passed to all the people to do the aarti. We all got to perform the aarti in front of Ganges and be a part of the sacred tradition.

The noise of chanting and temple bells ringing in my ears I silently stepped out. An experience I will remember all my life. I heard of little Buddha café during small conversations with fellow mates in hostel. I decided it is where I will have my dinner. Little Buddha café was small but cozy restaurant. It was fully crowded, I had to share my table with another person to be able to get a seat there. Amazing Italian food and lovely view from the restaurant makes it an ideal place to eat.

Staying in hostel you come across different kinds of people in common area. Travel being a common passion it is easy to connect with people. Instantly got along with people and conversations begun. We shared with each other about our travel experiences. Day one was full of adventure, fun and also peaceful. Next day I already had booked for a half day rafting expedition and was all excited about it. Rafting and my experience of rafting will follow in a separate blog. Keep reading. Please do share and comment if you liked my solo trip experience to Rishikesh.

To read about my previous adventure trip visit THREE GENERATIONS TREK TO TRIUND

THREE GENERATIONS TREK TO TRIUND

Unplanned travel, unknown destination, new connections, long train journeys mesmerizing as they may sound but doing it together with people from 3 different generations, yes u read it right people from 3 different generations, was the most thrilling of all. With no idea of what is in store, google at our rescue we headed towards the himalyan ranges to explore the unknown.

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Pack your bags we r leaving

Pack your bags we r going to the Himalayas is what I said to my mom and son. Made an impromptu plan just 2 days ahead of the journey and booked tatkal tickets to Pathankot. Very unlikely of me, no planned itinerary, no plan in mind booked a homestay, tightened my shoes and left home.

Anxiousness bit me, am I doing a right thing? Is it risk for mom and son to go totally unplanned.? Noises around in train faded all cuddled up in their berth for a peaceful sleep. Restlessness and anxiety didn’t let me sleep woke up starring out of my window, pitch dark, total silence and middle of nowhere.

Everyone was questioning how will you manage on your own but I was sure this was going to be our lives most special experience. Cold breeze and sunlit skies welcomed us as we stepped out of the train. A private cab awaited us at the station to take us to Mcleodganj.

Long weekend and long queue of cars

Reached the homestay we had booked freshened up and decided to step out to explore the place. Mcledoganj like any other hill stations has small steep narrow roads going up and down and leading to different places. Long weekend traffic started lining up on all roads so we had no option but to walk to monestry and then to Bhagsu falls. This wasn’t how I imagined the trip to be. I wanted it to be an experience we will cherish all our lives that is when I remembered my friends suggesting me to trek to Truind.

Mom change of plans! R u up for a trek?

60 yr old mom and 6 yr old son will they be able to do the trek, will trek be an experience they want to have. Many thoughts kept crossing my mind. Finally, I decided let me take a plunge and do something which we had never done in our lives. Had no clue how to start the trek and from where to start as it was not a part of the original plan. Spoke to the owner of the homestay she helped me book a cab to the starting point of the trek. Just with few eatables and water, we headed to the start point at 6 am next morning.

Our first trek begins

Rocky roads, dark surroundings and the sun playing hide and seek, anxiety was building up. The first 4 km to gully devi was not properly built roads it was full rocky, steep and curvy. We reached gullu devi and started our trek to Triund. Little did we know what awaited us? We had no idea that the path will be full of rocks and not a straight climb. Not even a km away and mom started giving up. Trekkers coming down started telling us that way ahead was steeper and we hardly had covered any distance.

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I didn’t want to go back but also had the fear if mom fell sick or had trouble with her leg how will we walk down. We had planned to climb up and trek down the same day. Truind, unlike other trekking places, doesn’t need a guide or a map it is easy to navigate and no two ways to do it. Maybe that’s why whole of Delhi and Punjab seems to have come there.

Mom and son in full spirits. No looking back

Mom didn’t give up. She wanted us to complete the trek. Fellow trekkers started motivating my mom and cheering her up for the spirit to be able to trek up at this age. My son became a ‘rock star’ as all people started praising him for doing trek at such a small age. So both mom and son were in full spirit to climb up. As we started going higher the path became narrow there was a point where only one person could pass through there was deep valley below one wrong step and gone. With help of a guide of another group my mom and son crossed that stretch.

Zero visibility ahead be careful

Fog covered mountains, cool breeze, showers of rain it was so mesmerizing. Have you experienced it? Due to fog, the road ahead wasn’t clearly visible. It was like walking between the clouds. Felt like out of the world. The last stretch was little difficult for mom as the path was steep and straight upwards. Trekkers were helpful they helped mom climb up finally we reached the top.

Every travel we meet different types of people. Some people leave a mark in our life. One such person was a full energetic 70 yr old uncle and 60 yr old lady who were also trekking up with us. Uncle being a Himachali, born and bought up in hills was climbing the hill swiftly and with proper care. With a never saanyany spirit they climbed up and after some time, they started descending down.
View from the top was amazing but the crowd due to long weekend dampened the excitement. Full hilltop was filled with numerous no of tents making it too crowded.

Check the video of my mom and sons first trek https://youtu.be/mJZgl5wiKvo

First experience in tent

Settled into a tent after a long tiring trek. Took a small nap. When I woke up and stepped out of the tent it was dark and cloudy outside at 3 pm it felt like night. The view of Dhualadhar ranges was breathtaking. I started wandering around enjoying the cold climate. Sipping a cup of hot tea in the cold weather I walked around the top and sat down gazing at the beauty of nature listening to songs. Time had come to standstill.

It started raining making the place more beautiful and cold. Cold climate and dark surroundings was a different experience. Night view with the glazing stars will always remain a beautiful memory. We enjoyed sitting and gazing at the sky with unlimited stars, a view we hardly get to see in our city life. It was like reliving my childhood.For my son, it was first such experience. We counted stars, saw various formations of stars. Slowly the noises faded and everyone started settling into the tents. Silent night, dazzling stars and mind at complete peace, an experience which cannot be described in words.

First experience of sleeping in sleeping bags inside the tent for all 3 of us. As we had not planned for staying over at night we weren’t carrying warm clothing. Few fellow trekkers were very humble they gave us the extra jackets they were carrying which helped us sleep through the night. Temperatures fall at night it was very cold so please whenever u plan to trek to Truind do carry warm clothes.

Head back to mcleodganj

Sky lite with sun felt like we were living a dream. We woke up early to enjoy the rising sun. We wanted to trek down before it would get much hot later in the day. We started trekking down at 6am. Trekking down was also little difficult as steps were steep. We took enough breaks as mom and my son was getting tired. Finally, we completed our trek successfully. Was one amazing night.
Mom had pain in her knees for a couple of days but for her, this was a unique experience she will remember and cherish always. Mom this trek is a reminder you don’t say no to new experiences. You have lived all your lives doing things for others, now it is time to start living the second innings of your life on your terms. My first blog is a motivation for both of us, for me to try and pen down my beautiful travel experiences and for you to see life with a new perspective.
Thank you for taking out time to read my blog. Do feel free to comment and do tell me how did you find this article hope I did little justice to what we experienced that day by writing this article.