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Iron hand plays with Puja

Darjeeling, Sept. 13: Politicians here can decide the fate of the gods.

Lord Viswakarma’s popularity is on the wane in the hills with Subash Ghisingh suddenly discovering that the god was never a part of the Gorkha community.

It was under the direction of the hill leader last year that Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Transport Joint Action Committee — an umbrella organisation of over 100 taxi syndicates — had replaced the idol of Lord Viswakarma with a shila (stone).

Though the GNLF chief had not issued a blanket ban on the traditional form of worship, his adoption of the shila ensured that the practice of idol worshipping started disappearing from the hills.

Within a year, Ghisingh, however, changed his stance once more and this time decided that even a shila should not be allowed to stand in for Viswakarma. The GNLF chief’s decision has ensured that the 100-and-odd syndicates do not celebrate Viswakarma Puja on September 17.

“We will organise a loha (metal) puja on September 23 instead. There will be neither a shila nor an idol. We will worship items like khukuri and metal tools (used in vehicles),” said Pranay Rai, the GNLF MLA from Darjeeling and also the secretary of the transport committee.

Not only that, the GNLF followers have also named the September 23-festivity the Loha (iron) Puja, and not Viswakarma Puja. This has ensured that the existence of the god of architecture and engineering is under threat among the Gorkhas, the majority of whom are incidentally Hindus.

The logic behind worshipping metals, however, has its base in Hindu mythology, GNLF supporters claim. Since according to them, Goddess Durga had worshipped metal before going to destroy Mahisasura, the king of the demons, Ghisingh’s interpretation stands vindicated.

According to Hindu mythology, the goddess returned victorious from the battlefield after a 10-day war with Mahisasura. This mythical 10-day period starts from September 22 this year and is usually recognised as the Mahalaya.

While the existence of Lord Viswakarma is at stake in the hills, Goddess Durga can breathe a sigh of relief for the narrow escape this time. GNLF followers have been asked to continue worshipping the Goddess in the form of a shila.

However, Ghisingh has made sure that a strict dress code is enforced during the Durga Puja celebrations. The hill communities have been asked to dress in their traditional attires to bring out the tribal nature of the Gorkhas, which is expected to ensure Scheduled Tribe status and the benefits that come with it.

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