Over 15 districts spread across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa saw Durga Puja with a difference this festival season. Instead of the goddess slaying Mahishasur, the usual story of the Puja, this year, tribals and people belonging to Scheduled Castes and backward classes in these districts are celebrating the “demon king” as a non-Aryan inhabitant and a just king of the land, with Durga representing Aryan invaders.
They will conclude the Puja with Vijay Dashmi or Dussehra marked as ‘Mahishasur Shahadat Diwas (Martyrdom Day)’.
According to this version, it is the Brahmins and Aryans who spun the “false” yarn of Durga being good and Mahishasur evil.
The first Mahishasur Diwas celebration was organised by the All India Backward Students’ Forum at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, three years ago — perhaps the first such subaltern version of the mythology of Mahishasur and Durga. Now, for the first time, it is being observed at such a large scale.
“The nine days of Durga Puja have never been a time of celebration for the Kherwal tribes but that of mourning. Only this time, there is greater awareness amongst our people about the story of Mahishasur and Durga,” Ajit Prasad Hembram, a tribal activist organising the Mahishasur Martyrdom Day in Purulia district of West Bengal, said over the phone. “Similar ceremonies are being organised in at least 20 different places in West Bengal this year, including Malda, Bankura and Hooghly.”
As per Hembram and Ashwini Kumar Pankaj, a tribal activist and editor of Johar Disum Khabar, a multi-lingual journal published from Ranchi, Mahishasur (also known as Hudhud Durga) was a clan leader of tribals in the Santhal region, who put up a strong fight against Aryan invasion. According to Hembram, as tribals did not pick up weapons against women, children, aged and the weak, the Aryans sent a woman to lure him