As the whole country is busy celebrating Durga Puja, many of us are mesmerized by the beautiful Durga Maa idols. The idol makers put in months to make these majestic, larger than life idols of gods and goddesses. But do you know how these idols are made?
As per traditional Hindu rituals, there are four things that go into making these beautiful massive idols for Durga Puja. First is mud from the river Ganges, second is cow dung, third is cow urine and the last one is the soil from nishiddho pallis or forbidden territories.
The soil from forbidden territories is also known as punya maati and it comes from the homes of prostitutes. Yes, you read it correctly. It comes from the homes of prostitutes. Kolkata is home to one of the biggest red light areas in Asia – Sonagachi. It is estimated that around 11,000 sex workers live here.
Though no one knows when this tradition started, it is believed that traditionally, priests were supposed to go to the brothels and beg prostitutes for the punya maati. And, as sex workers hand over the soil, the priest was expected to recite a particular mantra.
Have you ever wondered what could be the reason behind it? Why the soil from the brothels is considered auspicious.
Though there is no one particular reason why the soil outside a prostitute’s home is supposed to be so pure. As per different beliefs, here are some of the reasons why Punya Maati is considered to be pure.
Some people believe this custom started as when a man enters a sex worker’s house, he leaves behind his virtue and purity outside the house – thereby making the soil at the doorstep pure.
Whereas, others believe that this custom was started to include the sex workers in the festivities of Durga Puja as Maa Durga doesn’t differentiate between any section of the society. As per different theories propounded by the Vedas, the nine classes of women known as Navkanyas are to be worshipped, during Durga Puja. And, the Puja is considered to be incomplete if these women are not honoured during the celebrations.
Another explanation is that Maa Durga destroyed Mahishasur, who looked down upon women. Hence, using the soil from outside the brothel is a way to respect those women who have always been humiliated, shamed and harassed by society. There is another regressive view that believes that including the soil from brothels in the making of Durga idols, purifies them as they are leading a life of sin.
Irrespective of the real reason, what makes this small ritual so beautiful is that it shows the acceptance and inclusion of all the sections of society alike by Maa Durga!