Lucknow, Sept. 28: Sometime tomorrow, when the puja on the seventh day of Navratra begins in a village deep in the hinterland, Durga the demon-slayer will have to share the homage of devotees with another woman.
Only that the woman is really a child — a “miracle” to the villagers who have named her Durga.
Rasna — her real name — is not yet five. But in the last four months, the people of Nagla Daya Ki Thor say, she has grown into a woman.
She is now 4 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 44 kg. Normally, a girl of her age is between 2.5 and 3 feet and weighs about 20-22 kg.
The residents of this Uttar Pradesh village believe the spirit of Durga has possessed her. So they have built a pandal, where she will sit tomorrow, and worship her.
District officials who visited her said Rasna, who was surrounded by women, sat unperturbed on a cot under a tree. But her father Ram Babu, who runs a small business, is clearly embarrassed.
“It may be God’s wish,” the 36-year-old told the village panchayat. “But I don’t know what to do.”
The worried father had consulted gynaecologists after some villagers told him to consult doctors in Ferozabad, about 234 km from the capital Lucknow.
“Medical opinion accepts hormonal disturbances around eight or 10 years but, at four, it’s too baffling,” said Reshmi Bhatia, a doctor with the Ferozabad District Hospital.
Bhatia said though the girl’s father had told him she is between four and five, she looks like an adult — in fact, like any other village woman.
Shivani Chaturvedi, a gynaecologist and endocrinologist who checked her, said Rasna should be subjected to a series of ultrasound tests and hormonal checks.
“My fear is that she probably has a tumour either in the brain or in her ovaries, which is responsible for release of excess oestrogen. This is a case of precocious puberty, which has to be addressed urgently in the interest of the girl’s health,” she added.
“Cases of early puberty, at eight-nine years, are pretty common in western countries due to changing lifestyles, but this case is slightly more abnormal.”
Some Ferozabad doctors have approached the divisional commissioner to request proper treatment for Rasna.
Superintendent of police Anand Swaroop said he would keep watch to ensure she is not harmed during the puja.
“If the villagers want to worship Rasna, we will see how they want to do it and if she is being subjected to any unusual ritual that could make her ill,” said another senior police officer.