Shovayatra at Singtan
(Photo Credit: Sikhim.blogspot.com)
Durga Puja is one the most important festival of the Sikkemese people celebrated by the Hindu Nepalis, Bhutias and Lepcha’s alike. This festival is being celebrated right now across the state. On this occasion Pujas (worships) are being held in Pandals (tents) and big statues of the Goddess Durga has been made. The major Pandals are made in the capital city of Gangtok. The Puja of Thakurbari temple is particularly famous.
Shakti Singh, the Deputy Mayor of Gangtok and the President of the Thakurbari Puja Committee said to iSikkim that this year’s Puja is a nine day affair and people are excited to tour Pandals made across the district. According to Mr. Singh, the Pandals are made here since 1947 and the extent of celebration is on a continuous rise. This year around Rs. 4 lakh has been collected through Chanda (donations). Thousands of people of all community from across the state visit the temple during the Puja. All the government offices, educational institutions and law courts are closed during the festival. Durga Puja is one of the most important festival in the city of Gangtok. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated for around eight to ten days and is marked by prayers to goddess Durga, feasts, rejoicing, music and dance.
Shova Yatras (symbolic processions) are taken out and people wear new clothes. They also meet each other and visit different localities to worship the ten-armed Goddess Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Ganesh and Kartikeya in beautifully illuminated and decorated pandals. The priests perform prayers and recite the mantras from religious text called Durga Saptshati. Devotees visit the Pandals throughout the day. In towns and villages, in the evening, drama, song, music, dance programmes, sports, physical and cultural competitions etc are held in which everyone participates. Community feasts are also held.
The eighth day called Ashtmi a sacrificial hearth called Havan is made. On the penultimate day of the Puja, called Navmi, meat of goat and buffalo is offered to the Goddess Durga along with wine. People also offer homemade wine called Raksi to each other. This is considered to be auspicious and called Shagun. On the last day of the festival, called Dussera, the clay images of goddess Durga will be taken in colourful procession throughout the city to be immersed in the river. After the immersion people greet each other, visit each other’s home offering sweets, wine and meat. People mark Tika (vermillion mixed with rice) on this occasion. The fairs are held around Pandals which sell various articles of utility and handicrafts. Celebrations will continue for the next couple of days.