Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Navapatrika - The Deity of Nine Plants

The festival of Durga puja takes up its momentum by observing ceremonial bathing of Navapatrika, a form made up of nine plants wrapped up in a piece of cloth, on the second day - that is "Maha Saptami". "Nava" means nine and "Patrika" means plants in Sanskrit. The nine plants are - Banana (Kadoli), Wood apple (Vilva), Pomegranate (Dadim), Turmeric (Haridra), Barley (Jayanti), Asoka, Paddy (Dhanya) and Kachu (Arum colocasia). The nine goddesses presiding over the individual plants are Brahmani, Kalika, Durga, Karttiki, Siva, Raktadantika, Sokarahita, Camunda, and Lakshmi respectively. These are the nine manifestations of the "Parama Prakriti" (The Absolute Nature), that is the goddess Durga. Hence in essence it is a form of worshiping the Mother Earth.

In popular belief the deity is imagined as the spouse of Ganesha, hence the name "Kolabou" or "The Banana wife". The main frame of the form is made up of a leafy banana trunk and thus it is called "Banana wife". I think there is a meaning to this association. The other name of the Lord Ganesha is "Siddhidwata", meaning the giver of success and prosperity. In an agricultural society what can be more prosperous than fields full of crops, trees heavy with fruits and lush green vegetation?

Early in the morning the deity is taken to the bank of a river for the ceremony, among beating of the drums. In Kolkata it takes place mainly at the ghat of the river Ganga. At the start of the ritual the plants are immersed in the water of the river for washing. Then it is wrapped up in a new piece of cloth and the puja starts with the chanting of the mantras. The deity is offered fruits and sweets for Her pleasure. After all the rituals of puja are over the deity is taken back to the pandal and is placed by the side of the Ganesha.





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