Mahaastami and Mahanavami are two most auspicious days in Durga Puja to offer ‘Patha Bali’, animal sacrifice. But this time, Durga Puja Pandals of Patna, Bihar, have decided to avoid animal sacrifice and to use pumpkins and cucumbers instead of animals. Isn’t it good news for animal lovers and animal protection organizations? Certainly yes.
Madhuri Kumar for Times of India writes:
Ranjit Bhattacharya, a purohit (priest) of a Barowari Puja Committee said, “Sacrifice is an essential aspect of the Puja, for `bali’ is the symbol of power. Bali invokes power. And since we are worshipping Durga, who is the embodiment of shakti (power), it is essential to incorporate bali in puja, but it does not have to be an animal.”
A number of pandals, which have a tradition of organizing Puja for the last 100 years, like Bengali Akhara (Langartoli), Kali Bari (Yarpur), Bengali Akhara (Marufganj) etc and some who have a tradition of over 25 years like Golghar Club(Golghar), Tarun Sangh (Boring Road), Recreation Club (Bhikhna Pahari), Ramkrishna Mission Ashram (Nala Road), Adalat Gunj Club, R-Block Club, Pataliputra Colony, also do not offer any animal at the altar.
Barring Darbhanga Kalibari, even Durga temples which have a history of over 150 years like Badi Patan Devi, Choti Patan Devi, Shitala Mandir, Agamkuan, also have no tradition of animal sacrifice.
Bali of white pumpkin, sgugarcane and cucumber is offered specially on Mahaashtami day during sandhi pujan. An integral and important part of Durga Puja, sandhi puja is performed at the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar days. Sandhi puja lasts from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami till the first 24 minutes of Navami. As the legend goes, during this juncture, (the “sandhikshan”), Durga is worshipped in her Chamunda form. Devi Durga killed Chand and Mund, the two asuras at “Sandhikshan” and thus acquired the name of “Chamunda”. The merger of Mahaashtami and Mahanavami is significant as it is in this moment that Ram sent his arrow hitting Ravana in his navel and killing him.