Report by Kahnu Nanda, Jagatsinghpur: The Shakti Puja and Durga Puja celebrations, which just got over for this year in Odisha, dates back to a time as old as the as the cultural heritage of the state.
During autumn, which falls in the month of Asvina , Durga Puja is celebrated all over the state with local variation . on the occasion the deity is worshiped in Shakti shrines either as Ghata or Kalasa or in the form of earthen status called the Murmayee Pratima in several parts of the state.
Amid these rich traditions a cruel ritual that still accompanies the celebrations is the brutal sacrifice of animals, which has been banned by the Odisha High Court across the state since year 2002. Despite high court restriction and mass awareness drive against this cruel practice animal sacrifice at several Shakti Peeths were carried out on Thursday. Superstitious bound people find it hard to admire ban on animal sacrifice imposed by high court.
Meanwhile historic evidences suggest that Shakti Puja or Durga Puja celebrations are going on for more than a hundred years. Shakti Puja gained importance in the erstwhile state of Kalinga , which led to the mushrooming of number of other Shakti shrines throughout the state.
These shrines also act as the socio- cultural centre of the people in the state, Odisha had at least eight famous shrines and each one them maintained their own independent identity, besides having all the incarnations of Devi Durga. The various forms of Shakti that are being worshipped in these shrines include as Bhagabati in Banapur, Biraja in Jajpur, Bimala in Puri, Mangala in Kakatpur, Sarala in Jhankada near Tirtol, Charchika in Banki, Sameleswari in Sambalpur and Hingula in Berhempur under Ganjam district.
According to historians, goddess Biraja at Biraja Khetra in Jajpur district and Maa Bimala placed inside the famous Jagannath temple at Puri are the oldest deities of Goddess Durga in Odisha and Goddess Durga is considered to be an embodiment of the supreme divine power. People believe that Durga saves her devotees from danger, distress, difficulty, calamity, sorrow, obstacles, misfortune, and fear and reincarnates to destroy evil.
However mythological data and stories related to the Goddess are depicted in the Vedas and Upanishads, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Haribansa, Srimad Bhagavat Gita, Markandey Purana and Chandi Saptasati theses books speak of Maa Durga’s triumph over demons, vices, evils, and how she restores peace, order and Dharama on earth so people worshipped Durga during the month of Avasina for six days.
The festival is celebrated with tradition touch in the eight Shakti shrines of the state as rituals including the community worship in the towns, semi urban and rural areas in the form of earthen statue or Ghata.
Artisans, Blacksmiths, carpenters, and goldsmiths worship their instruments and take rest during six days of the festival. On the day of Asvina Sukla Saptami the idol is installed , on Maha Astami an animal or a bird is sacrificed or a Kushmanda a water gourd is offered, on Dashami also called Bijaya Dashami after performing Puja the idol is immersed in the river next day or the same day.
The tradition of animal and bird sacrifice that started ages ago has claimed the lives of innumerable innocent animals and birds over the years, but in the mid-eighties several environmentalists and animal rights activists opposed the inhuman practices stating that it is superstitions, later the matter had raised in the form of several Public Interest Litigation PILs in the Odisha High court. ,
one Keshaba Mohapatrqa from Raghunathpur area in Jagatsinghpur district moved the court filing a PIL for the complete restriction of animal sacrifices at Sirlo Pitha where thousands of animals had killed during Durga Puja, adjudicating the petition in the year 2002 the High court intervened in the matter and directed to stop the animal sacrifices in Sirlo Pitha including several Shakti Pitha’s where this inhuman practice had been running during Durga Puja.
Report said that last one decade animal sacrifice has been stuck in Sirlo Pitha , Jagatsinghpur civil and police administration are taking elaborate arrangements halting the evil practice of animal sacrifices.
As the high court order has implemented letter and spirit across the state the animal sacrifices have been some extent curbed, have signed cheer among hundreds of human right activists and animal lovers with discontentment among those supported the practices even that claim the ban hurt the religious sentiment of the people, rued Bijaya Ray, who claims legal successor of the Sirlo Devi Pitha an age old Shakti shrine near Raghunathpur.