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Odisha celebrates Kumari Puja on Navami

Bhubaneswar: Odisha's age-old tradition of virgin worship was witnessed here on Tuesday on 'Navami' with a number of puja pandals here and in Cuttack conducting 'Kumari Puja'.

Kumari Puja is the tradition of worshipping young girls as live incarnations of Goddess Durga. A set of nine girls and a boy were seated on a pandal where they were decorated like Goddess Durga and worshipped by devotees, mainly women.

"As it is believed that Goddess Durga had taken the guise of nine young girls and came to the house of a trader. Lord Hanuman had also come along with the nine girls. Therefore, the puja is part of the Durga puja festival," said Jayanti Mahapatra, who was in a community puja pandal.

The Kumari Puja is performed a day before Dusshera where girls aged between one and twelve are invited to puja pandals and their feet are washed.

Red coloured thread is tied on their wrists. A 'tika' (Red paste) is applied on each girl child's forehead and are worshipped as incarnation of Goddess Durga. Amidst chanting hymns, the young and the old offer 'anjali' (prayer) to the nine girls. The devotees touch their feet and fed them sweets, the priest said.

The girls are also given gifts and sometimes even a token amount of money to appease them.

"The Kumari Puja indicates Odisha's respect for women in the days of yore. This particular tradition also gives a message that all should respect women as they are the source of energy like Goddess Durga," said Rameswar Panda, also a priest.

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