Celebrating Mahishasur: A new look at tradition
KOLKATA: When the city is gearing up to celebrate Goddess Durga, a community comprising dalits and adivasis on Monday organized a Mahishasur Martyrdom Day programme titled ‘Assur Khunta’ at the All India SC/ST Railway Employees (AISCSTRE) Association, C&W branch, Sealdah, near platform 9A.
Members put up a pillar or khuti (khunta in Adivasi) and set up a blue umbrella, symbolic of the blue sky, to pray for a peaceful and balanced coexistence of all species and world peace. There was also a discussion panel. On Mahalaya, the event organized by the Sambidhan Bachao Committee and the Mahishasur Swaransabha Samity portrayed Assur as a symbol of strength, peace, knowledge and reason.
Through ‘assur khunta’, the community wants to bring into focus the traditions and cultures of ‘assur rajas’, who, on this day of ‘Kalchakkajan’, would erect a pillar and set up an umbrella praying for world peace, harmony and love. The pillar symbolized the achievements of the kings and their teachings. Saradindu Uddipan, coordinator of state Mahishasur Swaransabha Samity, said, “We are not countering Durga Puja. In fact, we are trying to revamp the tradition where assur rajas are associated with prosperity, peace, power, strength, harmony and love through our programme of assur khunta.” He added that it was a step towards expressing the culture and identities of dalits and adivasis in our country as their narrative “has always sidelined by the popular Brahmanical assumptions and practices”.
Questioning the Hindu myths and rituals, divergent voices will challenge the mainstream discourse where Mahishasur is killed by the goddess and try to come up with an alternative which associates Mahishasur with compassion, knowledge, reason and science. In the Rig Veda, ‘assur’ is not associated with evil, but with knowledge, reason and power and that is why perhaps the philanthropic kings of Assam took up the title ‘Assur’.
Like last year, the Mahishasur/Hudur-Durga memorial meetings, which draw on folklores, will be organized in different districts, like Malda, Purulia, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.
Academic Nrisingho Prasad Bhaduri said, “It should be kept in mind that Mahishasur is not at all deprived. Offerings are also made to him on Durga Puja. It is primarily a festival which celebrates good triumphing over evil.”
Courtesy: TOI, Oct 9, 2018