When people gave farewell to Goddess Durga, Bengalis residing in Balasore town adopted their traditional way of biding adieu to Devi. They exchanged Shubho Bijaya greetings and performed rituals like darpan bisarjan followed by Sindoor khela, the playful ritual by women applying vermilion on each other.
Women first applied vermilion on the parting of hair on Goddess’s forehead and her bangles; wiped her cheeks with betel leaves as if wiping away her tears of sorrow because she was leaving her father’s abode. Finally put sweets in her mouth before bidding her goodbye.
A resident Pratiksha Ghosh said immersion of deities is just like biding farewell to daughter. “So, before the deity is taken out in procession we dress the goddess like a newly-wed daughter and perform the rituals like kanakanjali. Women mostly Bengalis took part in sindoor khela when they painted each others forehead with vermilion They too exchanged sweets as they bade farewell to the goddess. The male members however smeared red abir on each other’s faces and embraced each other in kolakuli (hug),” she said.
Due to its close proximity, the puja traditions including the immersion are followed here like those in West Bengal. The Bengali residents here observed their family puja with much pomp and gaiety and similar rituals were also performed in many community puja mandaps.
While the idols of community puja mandaps were taken in vehicles, the deities worshipped by the individuals were shouldered to the nearby Budhabalanga river for immersion. “Ten persons took the deities on their shoulders and immersed in the river. Then all our family members congregated in one place where younger took the blessings of elders,” said Purna Chandra Kar of Barabati area.
In fact the return journey of Goddess Durga here was a blend of many traditions. While on the day of Dasami 'Akhada khela' by 32 groups marked the beginning of the immersion ceremony, performances by folk artists stole the show during the processions on Thursday and Friday.
Beating of drums, blowing of conchs, frenzied youths dancing in front of vehicles carrying the idols and roadside vendors making brisk business too marked the immersion procession in the sand city.
The denizens - young and old, men and women - formed an ocean of gathering on the streets that connects with Balighat where the procession converged before the images were taken for immersion leaving behind an air of nostalgia. This year the town had around 75 community puja medhas. All the medhas were immersed at Nuniajodi and Balighat in Budhabalanga river.
Balasore SP Amrita Dash who personally supervised the security arrangements said the puja and Akhada khela were incident free while the immersion passed off peacefully. “There was no untoward incident reported. Elaborate security arrangements were made to prevent traffic congestion and vehicular movement was regulated at road crossings,” she added. Altogether 20 platoons of police forces were deployed.