Remember your childhood days at this time of the year? The toy guns and the red strips with bubble of explosives that would burst with crackling sound and fire sparks at the pull of trigger by our tiny little fingers then? The majestic pandals with all those glittering lights? The savoury sweets of various types? The lovely magnificent idol of Goddess Durga sitting on lion both attacking the evil guy Mr. Mahishasura, the evil buffalo demon, epitomising the victory of Good over Evil? Well the festive season is back here in Ziro again as is the case in various parts of India.
The preparatory works for the celebrations were already started a week ago, the idols were brought in yesterday with the sounds of drums being reverbating over the streets of Hapoli. The Puja celebration has started today and will culminate with the immersion of idols in the streams of Keilya on 11th October 2016.
The Zirotines here are in festive mood with the holidays from their offices and educational institutions visiting the celebrations taking place in Danyi PiIlo ground by the staffs and the other near State Bank of India by the bazaar committees. The holidays during this time of the year is a win-win situation for the natives who uses the holidays for working in their own fields in day as it is the harvesting season in Ziro and then taking part in the celebrations in the evening.
A handful of adventurous men airlifted a Durga idol from Jorhat town to Ziro in Lower Subansiri district defying a tribal ban on the festival and began the first Puja in 1960 as the rest of the state shuddered at the thought of the Chinese aggression.
The year was 1960. And the mood was anything but festive.
Arunachal Pradesh, of course, was still not a state but a part of the North East Frontier Agency.
China threatened to invade at any moment and the local people did not want the festival on their land.
Two government officials, then assistant political officer P.P. Srivastav and an official of the agriculture department, B.C. Ghosh Dastidar, decided to worship the goddess nonetheless.
Now 74, Ghosh Dastidar, reminisces about that day as if it were just yesterday.
“I can vividly remember the day when we made up our mind to worship Durga at Hapoli ground. We were always afraid of being ostracised because of a local ban on ‘alien’ Puja. We brought the idol and decorators from Jorhat on a Kalinga Airlines aircraft. We managed to perform the Puja that year and after two years, in 1962, tension gripped the area because of news of a Chinese attack that spread like wildfire throughout the state.
“We planned to discontinue the Puja fearing obstacles but the then assistant political officer, Srivastav, insisted that we continue the puja at any cost. I, being an artist, had a mask shaped like Durga’s face and chiselled out the goddess’s face on it and continued the puja,” Dastidar says. -The Telegraph, Calcutta, India
The Durga puja celebrations in Ziro dates back to the year that not even the present Secretary or Chairman of the Puja Celebration Committee remember. It’s like the celebration has become the part of several generations of Zirotines who grew up with the celebrations taking place every year.
In conclusion, I would like to send out the message of brotherhood that the Secretary of Durga Puja Celebration Committee wants Zirotines to hear out “As Donyi Polo is the God of the natives here and so is the Durga for Hindus and as they say that the God is one and same but in different forms, we should maintain the respect for each other’s religious customs and traditions like we have been maintaining over all these years”.
Happy Durga Puja to all the Zirotines out there!
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