Kolkata, the city of joy bursts into euphoria this time of the year as the denizens begin celebrating one of the most awaited festivals – Durga Puja. While thousands of idols of goddess Durga is seen in every nook and corner of the city, this year sets to be a path breaker for a significant reason.
Inspired from Shiva’s Ardhanarishvara (half man and half woman) avatar, for the first time in the history of Durga Puja in Bengal, people will be worshipping a ‘transgender’ Durga idol.
The idol has been placed at the pandal on Joy Mitra street. It is being organised by the Pratyay Gender Trust in association with Uddyami Yuvak Brinda, who seek to spread a humanitarian message.
“Ours is an attempt to question these practices and caste/class structures and to cross gender lines – as ‘women’ and ‘outcastes’ – who have traditionally been barred from taking part in integral aspects of socio-religious functions such as Durga Pujas.”
They say that decision making powers and participation in such celebration has by and large remained in the control of men and powerful and upper castes/classes.
The idol is a visualisation of transgender Bhanu Naskar, who got it crafted by the only woman artisan of Kumortuli, China Pal.
One half of the idol has a moustache, a pectoral instead of a breast, smaller eyelashes, and a dhoti (traditional male garment). The other half is the female Durga idol which is usually seen at Puja pandals.
Even though a lot of locals were reluctant to welcome this change, media support helped them get a community approval. In fact, they are running a fund raising campaign on Facebook to generate funds for the Puja too.
With Durga Puja set to begin from today with the offering of the first in a series of prayers to the deity, a lot of stereotypes and prejudices will be broken at Joy Mitra street.
What is to be seen is how the society welcomes this change. Nevertheless, the initiative in itself is a commendable step forward to bring into mainstream those our society considers outcasts.
This is not the first time that transgenders have come at the forefront of change in Bengal. On June 9, transgender Manabi Bandhopadhyaya became the principal of the Krishnanagar Women’s College in Nadia district.