With each passing year I'm finding Kanya Pujan (or Kanjak) meaningless. With each passing year, I'm getting more and more disinterested in this Hindu ritual, when on a given day, we have to worship small virgin girls. And this year, for the first time, I was vocal about my thoughts to my family.
In the following paras, I have elaborated about the ritual, the legend behind it, and its religious importance. If you already know it, you can jump to Changing times and Kanya Pujan (below)
What is Kanya Pujan?
Hindus observe Navratras (meaning nine holy nights) and during these days they worship Goddess Durga. On each day one of the nine dimensions of the Goddess are worshipped. On the eighth and ninth day, virgin girls till the age of puberty and the one's who have not attained puberty, are worshipped. This ritual is called Kanya Pujan (meaning worshipping the girl).
|Girls worshipped and fed as Kanjaks|
While invoking the parashakti in such a form the purity of mind body and spirits is required and is fulfilled by a girl child of the said age of 8+ before reaching puberty. Such a female child is indeed Devi, who in her later life takes the roles of Parvati as a wife and mother, Lakshmi as a housewife, Saraswati as the first guru of her children, Durga as the destroyer of all obstacles for her family, Annapurna as the food provider through her cooking, Kali as the punisher to bring the members of the family on the right track, so on and so forth...
Where all in India is it observed? What's the ritual?
Some of the regions in India that observe Kanjak Ashtami are Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Ritual - 5 or 7 or 11 small girls from the neighbourhood are invited at home. The lady of the house performs the ritual with the help of other people in the family. The feet of girls (referred as Kanjaks) are washed with milk and water, vermilion tilak is applied on the forehead, Mouli (the holy thread) is tied on their wrist. They are offered delicious food, traditionally - Poori, Halwa and Chana, and some gifts and money. Lastly, the couple touches the feet of the Kanjaks and take their blessings.
In eastern states like Bengal , Assam , Orissa and parts of Bihar the ritual is a bit different . Ritual - A single girl is chosen from Brahmin caste with auspicious signs and pleasant looks to be decorated as a goddess . Then she is brought to the place where worship of Devi has already been going on and the rituals are then conducted on her . She is offered all the sixteen items of worships and showered with lavish gifts to please her , like chocolates , dresses , jewellery , toys , cosmetics etc .
Changing times and Kanya Pujan -
First of all, due to skewed sex ratio in most the northern Indian States or I don't know for what reason, finding young girls in many localities is a difficult thing. Secondly, as its regular school days, so all the kids are off to school. The only strata left out from schooling is the children of maids and other unskilled labours, who live in some slum or urban village (as we call them) around. (Definitely, it talks about the conscience of convenience that we all have. That day, we don't mind that these under privileged kids are not going to school).
Honestly speaking, inviting those unwashed, unclean kids with tattered clothes and unkempt hair and an equally repulsive odour to your place can be quite cumbersome. And following the ritual with true devotion can be very challenging or you have to be religiously religious for it... I doubt how many of us would be doing that.... I'm sure most of us serve food and offer money to them with pity than with the great bhakti bhavana (religious feelings).
Finally, the only option left with a busy, working couple, is to cook all the dishes and go to the nearest temple to either give to the priest to distribute to small girls during the course of the day or again find some small beggar girl and give the food and money to her. We ultimately resort to giving alms or best put - to beggary.
This was about the ritualistic part only, which makes it worthless in my eyes. Femininity as divinity is only fashionable thing to say, nothing more than that.
Talking about why I'm so uninterested now is because of one apparent reason, which does not need any elaboration. The ever growing violence against females - foeticide, infanticide, sexual abuse of minor girls (Digital rape is a new term I came to know about), rape, sexual offenses, ill treatment because of the gender.
This year, while I walked towards the temple to offer the food etc for Kanjaks, the news of a three year old girl, raped and killed, kept banging in my head. I bowed my head in front of the idol of the goddess Durga and came back soon..... how does it matter whether some people worship the girls.... they actually don't need them.
pics coutesy: google images