Maa Durga, on lion’s back, be any name, is the most widely worshipped aspect of Sakti, till today. She was created by the powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is said that they opened their third eye and thus she was born. Various gods assisted her with weapons to demolish the evils. Swami Harshananda, of Ramakrishna Math, in his book, ‘Hindu Gods and Goddesses’, says, “Lion, the royalbeast, her mount, represents the best in animal creation. It can also represent the greed for food, and hence the greed forother objects of enjoyment which inevitably leads to lust. To become divine (Devatva) one should keep one’s animal instinct under complete control. This seems to be the lesson we can draw from the picture of the Simhavahini (the rider of the lion).”
HOLY ARRIVAL OF DEBI IN THE DEY MULLICKS
We come to know from Banbhatta’s “Harsha Charita”, Singhabahini Debi is the house hold deity of Rajyabardhana, elder brother of Harshavardhana of Gupta dynasty. The supportive reasons for stating Debi Maa as their own house hold deity is because that first of all, the idol was never of an Eastern India one because all the idols of the goddesses of Bengal had no dress inscribed. But this idol has inbuilt gold dress which covers the part beneath the waist of Debi Maa. The idol has inbuilt gold crown on Her head which was possible only as She was worshipped deity of a dynasty. The crown bears the demarcation of the royal with that of the common mass. Moreover, she had some inscriptions written on the foundation of Her erection and the dragon faced like lion denote that it belonged to an age prior to the Mughal. Also this become firmer on the discussion board when it is found that the face of Her lion is like somewhat of a dragon, which can never be of the Mughal age, rather prior to that age. So having an accountability of all these reasons with the old, artistic and traditional presentation of the display, it is accepted that she was of Rajyabardhan’s family only. Finally the last and the firmest beliefs of all is that- Gupta dynasty had “Baishya” kings. She was worshipped in this family. After a long period, when Debi Maa saw a religious Baishya merchant, She wanted to get worshipped in their household only. So she gave dreams to the Mullick.
We also get the flavour of Mullick household’s Maa Singhabahini’s (the Golden Durga) account around 400 years ago in “Ain-I-Akbari”, where we get the account of the three marital statuses of Akbar Shah of Delhi with the three Hindu princesses of various states, in order to maintain and to increase the smoother relationship with the Hindus. Salim, though was born to a Hindu mother (princess of Jodhpur), was primarily very destructive towards Hindus and so Khashru, son born to Salim was nominated as the heir by Akbar Shah. Later, Salim was regretted to his father on his death bed for his wrongs in 1605 and was succeeded to the throne and bore the name of “Jahangir.” Man Singha,who got this Debi Maa from the Bardhanas, was the most efficient and trustworthy of the generals to him. He was a very religous Hindu. In order to save the goddess from the tyranny of the Muslims and to keep the purity of the goddess, Hindu Brahmin priest fled away in one of the caves of the Chandranath Hills of Chattogram. After the death of a rich merchant Late Banamali Dey Mullick, a Subarna Banik of Gautam Gotra, of Tribeni in Hooghly district in Beng-1014, his son Late Baidyanath Dey Mullick, nearly after six years, in Beng-1020, got a dream from Debi Maa herself, asking him to bring HER from the priest in Chandranath Hills to his own house. Simultaneously, She also gave the order to the priest also in his dreams to hand Her over to Baidyanath Dey Mullick but She will appear in front of the priest whenever he will seek to see Her. Later they both met and on the 3rd day, the priest handed
over Maa to the merchant and asked him to sacrifice goat on every Tuesday and Saturday and also on the Shashthi, Saptami,Ashtami and Sandhi-Puja of every Durga Puja and also requested him to carry the worships in a true religious way. He also asked him to offer “murki” Bhog every day. So, till date, whatsoever food is offered to Debi Maa, “murki’ is a must. And animal sacrifice is done till date on the Durga –Puja’s four days. Baidyanath returned with the goddess on an auspicious day of Gobind Dadashi. It is said after establishing Maa Singha Bahini, Baidyanath Mullick had started flourishing in social and economical way in its greatest flow. Thus the family deiity of Rajyabardhana came parmanently to the Mullicks through the phase of Man Singha .
FAMILY DEITIES OF THE MULLICKS
DAILY WORSHIP OF DEBI MAAThe ceremony of “Holy Bathing” is a depiction of beauty, grand and grandeur. Darshan gets started daily in the morning when She is present in front of the devotees nearly around 8 A.M. to 12 P.M. In each house, there is a fixed house hold priest of their own. On the morning, She is offered “Balya Bhog” with sweets, sugar, milk, fruits and tender coconut. Then She is bathed from “pani-sankha” with various things like honey, milk, Holy Ganga water, rose water, tender coconut and finally with fresh water. This is practiced through out the year except for the days in the winter, where She is bathed with lukewarm water after giving fragrance body oil all over her body. This bath-water is offered to all as Her Charanamrito. After bath, she is offered new sari everyday. She is also given scented perfume all over her body. In lunch, luchis, vegetables, fries, naibedya and sweets are offered and the priest performs Arati. Debi Maa is then offered a short nap in the noon and the mandir –door remains closed in this time. In the evening, darshan is again opened to all from 6-9P.M. approx. Milk and sweets are given in the evening and Arati is again performed. Finally, She is offered the lunch menu in the dinner after which She is offered”Shayan’ by the priest. At this time, Her dresses, ornaments, flowers and garlands are removed from her body and She wears an ordinary cotton sari while going to sleep. The timings of the opening and the closure of the mandir doors and the menus of the bhogs, offered to Maa is subject to vary with the house hold traditions of different families. In order to get the holy darshan of Debi one needs to know which Mullick’s “pala’ is going on. Apart from Durga Puja, she is worshipped also during Basanti Puja and Jagaddhatri Puja.
The above photo of snan in a unique way, by the trunk of the elephants, is by courtsey of Sri Hemendra Mullick, once done in his residence.
ARRIVAL OF MAA FROM ONE HOUSE TO ANOTHER
It’s a memorable incident and noteworthy procession when Maa was brought from one house to the other with a lot of grandeur and nobility. She was placed in a palanquin which is carried by 4 priests with great care. Upon her head, shed a royal velvet umbrella type “chandoya” which was hold by a priest. A great celebration was held with musical troop and band party behind and in front of Debi Maa. The way in which She went through was filled up with the innumerable petals of roses and other flowers’ too. The household persons sprinkle Holy Ganges water on her way. The atmosphere was filled up with the loud sound of the conch. Hundreds of people used to gather on the both sides of the way to pay homage to the deity. The snaps given beneath are priceless as on date. It belongs to the decades before when this practice was performed of bringing the deity in such a pomp and glandeur manner. We received these from Hemendra Mullick.
Now a day, the scenario is very much changed. Due to security problems and many other reasons, She is no more brought from one house to the other under an open sky. With the same respect, awe, reverence and love, She comes in a private car on the lap of the priest and enters in the house with the same way of welcoming Her with the petals of the rose and holy Ganges water. The snap given here is of the entrance of Maa in Sinduria patty before the Durga Puja’08.
DESCRIPTION OF THE GODDESS
The hour of the Goddesses is at hand and family waits for these days expectantly. Debi Maa is about 1 and a half ft in height. She is made up of “ashta dhatu” (a mixture of eight metals) I which gold plays the major part. She has silver”chalchitra” on which another chalchitra is given by the house, where she is worshipped, which is gold-guilted. The four-handed goddess is carried by the lion. She bears conch, chakra, bow and arrow. There is a detailed iconography behind these weapons. The conch shell in Durga's hand symbolizes the 'Pranava' or the mystic word 'Om', which indicates her holding on to God in the form of sound. The "Sudarshan-Chakra" or beautiful discus, which spins around the index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness. The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand "Mother Durga" is indicating her control over both aspects of energy - potential and kinetic. The lion bears a special characteristic with aface like that of a dragon. Under the lion lays the head of a dead elephant. It is one of the specimens of the artistry crafts of the oldest extant deities of Calcutta, dating back almost 500 years ago. The complete image of Goddess Durga represents destruction of evil and protection of good and reflects the point that in order to become divine one should keep one's animal instincts under control. Thus, by worshiping Durga the idea of ruthless destruction is invoked to annihilate all the desires and unfold divinity. She has an old fashioned and traditional shaping. It has large eyes spread up to the ears. Singhabahini Maa is adorned with a huge bulk of gold jewelleries all over her body and wears big necklets and necklaces of pearl all the year through. She is alone on lion’s back, artistically crafted in the decorated in precious stones and jewelleries “chalchitra” (the background base of the idol). No one is assured about the weight of the gold. The snap of Maa is by courtesy of Sri Rajat Mullick.
BHOG AND SACRIFICE
The above snap of the bhog is by courtesy of Hemendra Mullick.
RITUALS OF DURGA PUJA
The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in the month of Ashwin. The male members offer prayers to their dead ancestors in their “thakur dalan” or Thakur-Bari, by their family priest, in a ritual called Tarpan. The snap of the thakur dalan is by courtesy of Hemendra Mullick.
In Mullick house, “Chandipathh” starts on that very day with the foundation of the “Debi Ghot” which indicates that the festive and the preparation of Durga Puja has started, till Nabami. It is said that Durga Puja gets started from this day only, in their family. The main Puja is for three days – Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Maha Nabami. It is noteworthy that in the Mullick house hold, only Maa Singha Bahini without the four children, unlike Durga Maa, gets worshipped in these days. The Puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Bhogs and sacrifices are two important parts of the rituals. Three days of Mantras, Shlokas, Arati and offerings – are done by their expert family priest. During these days, the male members of the family wear new”jor” (a special silken traditional dress) and the ladies wear the traditional “garad “saris. They are adorned with huge bulk of gold ornaments among which-“nath” (a special nose ring from nostril to ear), “mal” (nupurs of the feet), and “bichhe” (a special ornament for the waist) carry notifying specialties both in design and weight. The snap of these ornamental display is by courtesy of Smt Renuka Mullick..
The snap of Maa is by courtesy of Sri Hemendra Mullick.
Saptami is the first day of Durga Puja. Kola Bou is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The house hold priest of the Mullicks takes Debi Maa in the Holy Ganges, with an umbrella on her and give Her a pre-dawn bath and then bring backs her back home wearing a new sari.
The day begins with a recital of Sanskrit hymns of the devotees offered anjali to the goddess. Sandhi-Puja is an important part of this Puja. Before the anjali starts, ignited 108 “Pradips”, (earthen lamps) on banana leaves are a must to get offered in front of Maa. The snap of the same is by courtesy of Smt Renuka Mullick.
A special ritual is held on the Maha Ashtami. Categorically it is held after the Ashtami ends and before the Sandhi Puja starts. It is called " dhuno porano." The married women of the family perform it. The elder generation of the women folk puts stray and incense inside three earthen basins and ignite them. They keep the biggest of them on their head, positioned upon an encircled cloth to avoid heat and the other two on their two hands. Fumes evokes out of these vessels. In this position, they pray to the Almighty for the betterment of their family members. They stay in this way for 5-10 minutes. This ritual is performed one by one. The snap of the same is by courtesy of Smt Renuka Mullick.
This is the concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Nabami Puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. “Kumari Puja” or the worship of little girls as the mother goddess was a special part of the rituals observed here. The snap of the Sandhi Puja is by courtesy of Smt Renuka Mullick.
"Sindur Khela" (Vermillion game) - Is a major event of Dashami. Married women apply vermilion to each other and greet each other with sweets. It is in the evening when Goddess Durga is immersed Bengalis greet each other with “Bijoya” greetings and men follow the customary 'Kolakuli' (embrace each other). Durga Puja is a festival, Bengalis celebrate without religious inhibitions. It is more of a socio- cultural celebration that tends to renew kinship with friends and relatives. After the three days of Puja, in Dashami, in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Head priest cut off the Holy thread of the “teer-kathis” around Debi Maa and immersion is basically done by the Holy hymns and Shlokas. As it is a Golden Durga, instead of the image, only the “kalaBou” is immersed on the Dashami evening the Holy Ganges, in a grand send-off as if they are bidding farewell to their own daughter to her husband’s abode. The water and the flowers of the huge Debi Ghot are immersed in water and new-fresh water is filled up in the ghot and is taken back to the Puja Bari. With the immersion, the festivities come to an end. The immersion ceremony is called "Bishorjon".
Thakur Ramakrishna Paramhansho had paid a several visits and homage to Maa Singhabahini in Kashi Mullick’s thakur Bari in Harrison Road. On 21st July, 1883, Thakur attended “Samadhi” while looking at Maa Singhabahini in Jadulal ’s
Mullick’s thakur dalan. This incident is found in Ramakrishna Kathamrito. This festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. The yearly visit of
the goddess is thought to bring well-being and happiness to the people. In order to get the holy darshan of Debi one needs to know which
Mullick’s “pala’ is going on and accordingly where Maa is worshipped on that time. This information was gathered basically with full cooperation from Sri Hemendra Mullick, son of Late Kashi nath Mullick of Grey St, (better known as the master of the "pakhiwal bari" for the macaws and cacatuah),Sri Rajat Mullick, 6th descendant of Jadu nath Mullick of Pathuriaghata, Smt. Renuka Mullick of Sinduria Patty and Sri Arun Mullick of
Armenian Street. And last but not the least this journey of coverage of gathering minute details would never have been completed without the
utmost cooperation of Sri Subir Mullick of Amherst St, an active member of this family.