A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clay for Durga Idols

I am sure many of my readers will recollect a scene from the Hindi movie ‘Devdas’ (any version, but latest being that of Mr. Bhansali), where Paro goes to Chandramukhi’s house (read brothel) to take clay for usage in making the idol of Devi Durga.

An age old practice is to collect the punya mati (blessed soil) from outside the nishiddha pallis (forbidden territories) of Calcutta to be used amongst other things to make the idol of Devi Durga by the now-famous artisans from Kumartuli (the potters town in Kolkata). It is now a ritual and the practitioners feel that this is a vital ingredient in the clay to be used in the idol making, without which, one cannot proceed.

So what could be the reason behind this practice of collecting mud from the doorstep of a sex-worker?

The most prominent reason cited is that when a man enters these dens of vice, he leaves his virtues outside the doorstep, making the soil virtuous. When the man comes out of the house, he has left all his vices at the house of the sex-worker. Another reason given is that this is to ‘purge’ the sex-workers of their sins! This sounds quite ironic as it is well known that no woman in the area is there out of choice and no man is there out of force. So to use this reason is quite unfair to the already wronged women of the area.

But then, let us look at the same practice differently. This practice could have been initiated by some, to include the otherwise ostracised members of the society. It could also have been a way to honour the erstwhile courtesans who were proficient in different form of arts. Or could it be that people of all religions and communities come to a brothel and involving the soil from there in the ritual could just be a fitting tribute to the all-encompassing nature of the Mother?

So does the practice have a religious reason or does it have a social relevance? Has the ritual made any difference to the way a layman looks at them? What kind of ‘elevation of status’ (if any) is it when they are so important for a day, but whores for the rest of the year? If worship of Durga is of stree-shakti (feminine power), then why is this practice so demeaning to a set of the womenfolk who seem to be so integral to the ritual? Unfortunately, all I can say is that the practice is still on; the sex-workers are in as squalid condition as they were but definitely the ritual has lost its social relevance, if it had any.

It sure is quite a blotch on the land of social reformers like Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Swami Vivekananda, to say the least.


  1. Utkarsh I am really impressed the way you are determined and moving ahead in life; I want to read more about our culture and meaning as this will only allow me to enrich my kids with knowledge; just love your work and details provided in each episode.

  2. Thanks for the comments....but do let me know your name, so I know who is making such comments. Also do suggest some topics and I will try and write on that!

  3. The name is Sanjay Leela Bhansali and not Bhanushali.

  4. The error is regretted and correction made. Thanks for writing.