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.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Kala-bou or the Banana bride

During Durga Puja, one of the most important ritual on Mahasaptami, or the seventh day, i.e. today, is the bathing of the Kala-bou or the banana-bride.

Ceremonial bath given to a banana tree on the banks of the Ganga

On this day, a small banana tree is taken to the river Ganga, and given a ceremonial bath. The tree is then draped in a white saree with red border, with some sindur or the vermillion powder applied on its leaves. Thereafter, the tree is kept on the right side of the idol of Ganesh, implying that she is the bride of Lord Ganesh.

However, the traditionalists differ on the concept of the Kala-bou as they see it signifying the coming together of Naba-patrika, or the nine leaves. On the trunk of the banana tree are tied the leaves of the following trees –

Holud gaach or the turmeric tree

Bel gaach of the wood apple tree

Daalim gaach or the pomegranate tree

Maankochu or the arum plant

Rice plant

Ashok tree

Kochu gaach of the colacassia plant

Jayanti gaach of the saal tree

Each of the above also stand for different forms of goddesses, like the banana tree representing Goddess Brahmani, turmeric tree representing Durga, wood apple tree representing Lord Shiva himself, the pomegranate tree representing Raktabija, Arum plant for Chamunda, rice for Lakshmi, Ashok tree for Sokrahita, the colacassia for Goddess Kalika and the Jayanti for Kartiki. All the goddesses are different forms of the Goddess Durga. Needless to mention, that each plant/tree has its significance in the day to day life of a common man, either in the form of staple diet, or as a spice of as part of medicinal plant.

Many have even opined that the Nabapatrika is a form of Durga herself, which symbolises all the aspects of
nature in a complex vegetative state. According to a scholar the plant symbolises the “festive enactment of Durga’s return of the blood of the buffalo demon to the earth so that the order of the world be re-established and luxuriant vegetation appear.” As far as placing the Nabapatrika next to Lord Ganesh’s idol is concerned, it can be surmised that the same is due to Lord Ganesh being credited to be the creator of eighteen medicinal plants, for which he is known as Astadasausadhisrsti.

Many also feel that the worship of Kala-bou in the form of Nabapatrika might not have anything to do with Lord Ganesh at all. It could just have been a local or a primitive practice of worshipping the Mother Earth for a rich harvest and with the popularity of the Durga Puja, this ritual was assimilated in the festivities. In the absence of idol-worship, the Nabapatrika was the symbol of Mother Nature herself.  Autumn or sharad-ritu was also the season for reaping crops and the peasants worshipped the Nabapatrika for a rich and bountiful harvest. As far as the placement of the Kala-bou is concerned, since Kartik was a confirmed bachelor, it was logical to place ‘her’ next to Ganesh! In fact, the worshipping of Nabapatrika in its original form is still prevalent in some parts of Eastern India.

Finally, to conclude, here is an interesting folktale related to Kola-bou. According to this tale, the wedding procession of Ganesh had not gone very far from home, when Ganesh remembered that he had forgotten something. On returning, he found his mother Durga eating bowlfuls of rice and gorging herself. Ganesh found it odd and asked his mother, as to why was she gorging herself. To this Durga is supposed to have said – “Jodi tor bou aamaake khete na dai? (What if your wife did not give me enough food to eat?). Hearing this Ganesh was upset, he stepped out of his home, cut a banana tree and gave it to her saying “etai tomar bou (this is your daughter-in-law)”. Later, Ganesh was married off to the banana tree and thus the name Kala-bou, or the banana bride.  

Interestingly, till quite some time back, in rural Bengal many mother-in-laws would be in a perennial fear of not getting enough food when their new daughter-in-laws came home, and tried to wield more authority on their sons. An interesting folk tale with mythological connotations, where the food has always been a source of trouble!

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