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Aryan Durga, Indigenous Mahisasura And Gagging Of A Perspective

By Aishik Chanda

15 October, 2014

The recent raid by Delhi police on the office of “Forward Press”, a bilingual magazine for ‘Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs’, based on a complaint lodged at Vasant Kunj police station, by two JNU students on the allegation of hurting religious sentiments, not only brings out the issue of gagging of subaltern voices but also suppression of the logical perspective to the religious festivities that are based on myth.

After vandalizing the “Forward Press” office and arresting four staffers of the magazine, the cops went on to seize the controversial October edition copies of the magazine found, not only in the premises, but also from stalls around Delhi. A manhunt for the editor-in-chief and the consulting editor has been launched, who have gone underground. This is not the first time that “Forward Press” has been hounded. In the past several months, the “Forward Press” claims that it has been hounded several times at the behest of the “Brahminical forces”.

This latest gagging of the magazine also shows that under the current Modi sarkaar, where the super-strengthened Hindutva forces are hell bent on “revising” our history, we better bow down to the Aryan version of our “historical myths” or face “official wrath”. Anything that challenges the “good gods” and hails so called ‘demons’ and ‘evil forces’ should be suppressed, banned, exterminated. 

The October edition of the magazine illustrated, through paintings by Dr Lal Ratnakar, the subaltern perspective that believes Durga had killed Mahisasura, the non-Aryan Asur ( modern day ‘Bahujan’) king through deceit, using alcohol and sex as an inducement.

The subaltern version of the story says that the army of the “devas” or Aryan gods came down along with Durga and waited with baited breath for seven days around the palace of Mahisasura, for success of the “mission”. Mahisasura, unaware of the ulterior motives of the beautiful lady, informed about the arrival of Durga to his family and welcomed her. However, according ot the Asur legend, Durga went into a sexual relationship with Mahisasura for seven days and finally, stabbed him to death with a dagger. The story says she drank liquor to her heart’s content before the murder.

The waiting devatas then descended on the palace and slayed the Asuras mercilessly. After the murder of their valiant king Mahisasura, the Asuras gathered on a full-moon might of Ashwin, a month in the Hindu calendar, to mourn the death of their king Mahisasura. “Ashwin Purnima”, the full-moon day of the Ashwin month falls five days after “Dashami”, the tenth and final day of Durga Puja.

That day fell on October 9 this year and was celebrated as “Mahisasura martyrdom day” in many parts of India. However, Mahisasura martyrdom day was observed as “Hudur Durga” six days before on October 3 in Purulia district of West Bengal, a state where Durga Puja is almost synonymous with “Bengali culture”.

The picture is of the idol of Mahisasura in the observance of "Hudur Durga"
or "Mahisasura martyrdom day" in Chaplagara high school ground, Purulia district of West Bengal on Oct 3.

The celebration of Mahisasura martyrdom day in Chaplagara high school ground, a few miles from the famed Panchkot Rajbari Durga Puja, was attended not only by Adivasi intellectuals and researchers from various parts of the state but also by renowned former IPS officer and controversial writer Dr Nazrul Islam and IAS officer Swapan Biswas. In the programme, Mahisasura was declared a “valiant non-Aryan king” and the attendees offered flowers to his feet.

Statesman: The report on the observance in Bengali daily "Dainik Statesman" on Oct 6, 2014.

“The version given by the organizers of the event says that the celebration of Durga Puja by the Hindus is nothing but the celebration of Aryan victory over the aboriginals. The non-Aryan king Mahisasura was killed by a ‘fallen lady’ (on moral grounds) whom she stabbed to death when the king was asleep. That ‘fallen lady’ is none other than Durga. For that reason, till date the first soil needed for making Durga idols is taken from the homes of the sex-workers,” said a report in the front page of Bengali daily “Dainik Statesman” published on Oct 6, 2014.

This first-of-its-kind observance in Bengal also shows a marked shift in Bahujan assertion in a state where Durga Puja, which was initially a festival of the upper-caste zamindar families of undivided Bengal, has become synchronous with the blatant homogenization of the vastly heterogenous Bengali culture. Durga Puja was first celebrated in Dinajpur Rajbari in present-day Bangladesh in the 14th century. Since then, the celebration has transformed from a “landlord’s festival” to a community one. However, despite this seeming homogenization, most of the Durga Puja committees in the paras or localities of the state, which are responsible for conducting the Durga Puja, are dominated by the upper caste Kayasthas and Brahmins.

The slaying of Asuras by the devas might be an “ancient truth” that the ‘Savarnas’ have conveniently made us forget. “During Durga Puja, the Asur tribe in Jharkhand, lock themselves up in their houses during the day and come out in the night to mourn the death of their king, Mahisasura. They fear that if they come out during the day, the devas would slay them,” according to an Oct 2 report in the Ranchi edition of the Hindustan Times.This provides a basis to the myth of the Asur community. 

The Asur tribe, first people in ancient India to discover iron, consider themselves to be descendants of Mahisasura and Ravan. They presently reside in Latehar, Gumla, Lohardaga, Palamu, Khunti and some parts of Simdega districts of Jharkhand.

Quoting from the HT report, “Malati Asur says, ‘Devas are power-hungry people. Whenever anyone has challenged them, they branded them as devils. Our ancestors always challenged them so they were branded as demonic figures’.”

Instead of gagging a perspective, the rational forces in the government, if they are powerful enough, should vouch for a detailed research on the issue so that it backs the aboriginal version of a myth that is the basis for one of the largest Hindu festivals celebrated in India.

The writer is pursuing M.A. in Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He was a working journalist at Deccan Chronicle and The New Indian Express at Hyderabad. He is now an independent journalist. He can be reached at chanda.aishik@gmail.com




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