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Armed and devoted

AK-47s, Bren light machine guns, INSAS rifles, magazines, Lee-Enfield for .303 cartridges, Sterling 9mm carbines and khukuris — this awe-inspiring assembly good enough to make Maoists wary is Jharkhand Armed Police’s holy arsenal this Durga Puja.

Like every year, the first battalion of the force stationed in Ranchi, will pay their obeisance to goddess Durga in a distinct way. Weapons will be worshipped instead of a pratima, a gun-salute will be paid, a band will play patriotic tunes and an animal sacrifice will be made to appease the divine.

The battalion, JAP-1, is said to have adopted these practices from the century-old rituals of the Gorkhas, many of whom currently serve in the Jharkhand force. In short, Durga Puja for police jawans will be a powerful invocation of the creator in a unique way.

Raj Kumar Dahal, a JAP member, said their festivities would last for nine days from Monday. Instead of an idol, a kalash or the sacred pot will be placed on a bedi (holy dais) at the beginning of matripakhha (the day of Mahalaya).

“The commandant is the head of our unit and his presence, irrespective of his religious inclination, is necessary. We celebrate unity in diversity through out Puja,” Dahal said.

The goddess is worshipped as Navadurga and welcomed under nine trees on Shashthi. Bhim Lal Pathak, the priest who performs the rituals, said the sacrifice takes place under the last tree. Weapons are brought out on Navami and worshipped.

Ganesh Pradhan, secretary of the JAP association, said they do not accept subscriptions. “The government allots funds,” he added.

No one in JAP could say for sure when this unique celebrations began.

“The battalion was raised as Bihar Military Police (BMP) way back in 1880 and we understand that the Puja began within the next 10-12 years and continued thereafter,” Pradhan said, adding that the force was rechristened JAP after Jharkhand was formed in November 2000.

“But, we never compromise on tradition. That is perhaps why ours was adjudged the best traditional Puja two years ago,” Pradhan added.