Sanatani Hindus in Myanmar celebrate Durga Puja

(Photo courtesy: Narinjara News based in Rakhine province of western Myanmar)

Nava Thakuria

Thousands of Hindu families in Buddhist majority Myanmar (also known as Burma or Brahmadesh) have organised the Sharadotsav (autumn festival) to worship Mother Goddess Durga with great enthusiasm amidst limited resources. The Sanatani Hindu people in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Mandalaya and Rakhine/Arakan State start celebrating the sacred festival for three days. Durga Puja festivity begins in various Rakhine localities of western Myanmar like Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyauk Taw, Ponna Kyunt, Kyauk Phyu besides Sittwe, which will culminate on Maha Navami.

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Worshiping Devi Durga, a goddess of Shakti (power), remains a major religious event for the Hindu people in southeast Asian nation, but like eastern India and many parts of Bangladesh, the organisers invite everyone irrespective of their ethnicities, class and religious believes to participate in the festival, as it symbolizes the victory over the demon king Mahishasura (so Durga Devi is also known as Mahishasura Mardini). The devotees there offer food and other items to the deity and serve the visiting guests with prasad and meals. They dress up in traditional attires in the evening hours and join in various rituals.

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Unlike huge Durga Puja mandaps showcasing splendid clay idols of Devi Maa in Kolkata, Guwahati, Agartala or Dhaka, the Myanmarese people mostly celebrate the festival in permanent temples. So, they can avoid Dasami Puja rituals including the immersion of idols symbolising the return of Durga Devi with her four children (Lakshmi, Saraswati, Karthik and Ganesh) from the maternal home to Kailash (on Vijayadashami). It helps the organisers to avoid unnecessary troubles from the current batch of military dictators, who have been ruling the poverty-stricken country since 1 February 2021.

Hindus in Myanmar celebrate Durga Puja
(Photo courtesy: Narinjara News based in Rakhine province of
western Myanmar)

One can mention that the ongoing Bharat Mata Pujan 2023 in Guwahati, where the motherland is worshiped as a deity, also coincides with the Sharadiya Durgotsav. Organised with an aim to celebrate the legacy, culture and traditions of eastern Bharat, the unique festival is graced by thousands of cultural personalities, art connoisseurs and patriotic nationals. The inaugural day witnessed the Akhand Bharat Parikrama, where thousands with earthen lamps on their hands walked around the Bharat Mata idol amidst a model of culturally undivided India comprising Myanmar too.

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(Nava Thakuria is a senior Indian journalist who contributes to various media outlets including print and digital platforms of India and across the world.)

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