CULTURE: The Goddess & the Games glow, Flower rallies string hill communities – while the political games continue, all communities band across the cultural divide for their deep inner longing for separation from Bengal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Oct. 14: Early morning drizzle and an overcast sky failed to dampen the spirit of Dashain today as hundreds of people dressed in their traditional attire thronged the streets of Darjeeling to take part in the phulpati processions.
Festivity gripped the hills as Buddhists, Marwaris, Bhojpuris and Lepchas alike took part in the Gorkha custom of offering phulpati. Young girls and boys danced alongside elders during the processions taken out from various parts of Darjeeling. They prayed to the deities at the Mahakal temple before the processions’ culmination at Chowrastha.
Phulpati is a unique custom of the Gorkhas in which they collect flowers, petals and other offerings from their homes and take them to the temple to pay obeisance to Goddess Durga.
The flowers, leaves and sugarcane are wrapped in a red cloth — the colour symbolising the goddess — and are carried in a decorated palanquin, which is accompanied by an ornate umbrella. It is believed that people who pass underneath the palanquin would be absolved of their sins.
The phulpati tradition traces back to the days of Pritivinarayan Shah (1723-1775) — the unifier of Nepal. During Shah’s times, the processions would start from his native place, Gorkha (the headquarters of Gorkha district in Nepal), and end at Kathmandu after covering hundreds of miles. (sad and a bit askew – again the snide “Gorkhasthan” link where all Indian Gorkhas are linked psychologically as foreigners in India – the brainchild of the Bengal communists ?!! (sic*) The tradition of Fulpati began much earlier than mentioned during Ramayan, the Rajput times from Rajasthan and the Aryan civilization where the Shah King’s forefathers emigrated from during the Mugal Empire expansion into Rajputana, difficult to say exactly when ?!!)
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, also led a procession that started from Motor Stand. Various organisations like the Koseli Sangh from Bara Kakjhora in Darjeeling took part in the festival along with community-based organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Newar Sangatan.
The Newar community with their famous mask dancers (lakhi) led the procession. Others followed dancing to the tunes of dhampu and madal. Traditional instruments like naumati baja (nine piece instruments) also reverberated across the hills.
“It feels wonderful to be at home. The phulpati procession really seems to unite the hill people irrespective of caste and creed,” said Sanjana Thapa, who has come from Delhi to visit her parents.
Unlike in the rest of India, where Dusshera and Durga Puja are largely confined to pandal hopping and meeting friends and relatives, Dashain in the hills is a more widespread celebration.
Vijaya Dashami is the most important day of Dashain when relatives gather not only for a grand feast but also to seek blessings. People visit their relatives wearing new clothes. Elders in the family apply tika (made of rice), curd and vermilion on the foreheads of the younger members. Sagun comprising sweets and fruits are served during the family gatherings which usually continue for a fortnight from Vijaya Dashami.