Punno Maati – Not so Uplifting Custom of Durga Puja

durga puja

There are many rituals and traditions that we follow blindly without really knowing the true reason behind them. And one I would address today is connected to Durga Puja, especially the making of idol. So many times I have visited the Kumartuli of Kolkata just to watch the Kumors making different idols of Gods and Goddesses. Kumortolas across Bengal is most busy before Durga Puja when they are busy making n-number of idols of Maa, each one as beautiful as the other.

Kumartuli-2But this idol making of Durga has a custom, soil collected from a prostitutes home is used to partially make the idol. This soil is called “Punno Maati” or the pure soil. It’s said that when a man enters the porch of a prostitute, the “Nishiddo Palli” meaning the forbidden territory, he leaves behind outside all his purity and virtues. Hence the soil outside is considered pure. There’s another view that because Maa does not make difference among human beings. So the soil from outside a prostitute’s home is used to show inclusiveness. The destitute sections of society are shunned by all and through this process; it makes them feel a part of society and shows them that they too belong to the world as much as the others.

Not a very promising or uplifting thought really as far as I can see. I personally find the whole custom filled with hypocrisy. Ever thought how they ended up in such a life? While men became a slave to his lust, she was shackled to this life which these very men look down upon. Majority of them are the product of a section of insensitive male dominated society who treats women as just sex objects.

This society of ours who go there in Nishiddo Palli to collect the Punno Maati, they Kumartuli-1conveniently forget them rest of the year. They are not allowed to be included in any festivals or family functions. These women are trampled upon throughout the year and left to live in filth, are remembered by the “Bhodrolok” men and women only during Durga Puja. Nothing will change on the side of these women; they’ll remain the same old social pariah whose bodies corroborate with the mere needs of their stomach.

Those who want mud from the door step of sex worker in the Durga Puja idol should also have the courage to go to their door step and do something to improve their living condition rest of the year. Or maybe I am asking for lot. As years rolled by, to me it’s becoming obvious that the rest of the world is turning more adulterated and vicious. Looking at the world a thought comes to me, is the Punno Maati really pure now a days? Do these men really have virtues to shed before they visit her porches these days!!!





7 thoughts on “Punno Maati – Not so Uplifting Custom of Durga Puja

  1. Do you know how much I adore you for writing this…..I did not know about this, but more than that, I am surprised that there is not more widespread knowledge about this.

    Interestingly, it’s the “man’s” soil that is taken, idea being his soil is important, pure or impure. Then the tragedy behind it….what about those who come again and again….he leaves behind his ‘pure’ soil, as he is now impure – not because he might have lied, cheated, tortured or was cruel to another human being but only because he visited a prostitute – reeks of ungracious actions of the power that were pretending to be holier than thou. Ironically, they forget that only the first visit technically is ‘pure’, all the following are impure as he is now forever tainted due to his association with a ‘fallen’ woman. Or maybe he leaves his impure self, goes and ‘purifies’ himself by visiting another woman – Ma Ganga – and then brings back the ‘purified’ self to get impure again….hypocrisy at its best.

    I am sure it all started with a novel thought – all such actions do – but when it keeps continuing that way without the knowledge of logic behind it, it becomes a fallacy.

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  2. Rituals often mask a lot of ugly truths. Making something irrational appear sublime is an easy way to peddle it. This critical exploration of the subtext is necessary and needs to reach people.

    Nice read, feels nice that there are people like you in this world who speak up to such hypocrisy.

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  3. As far as I know, the idol makers collect two types of soil for their preparation necessarily, viz. the soil from the brothel and the soil from the Ganges. The common thing in both the soils are that both of these comes from places where man go to cleanse his sin.

    Good one, great to have been addressed. Thanks for opening the eye around this hypocritical custom.

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