KOLKATA, INDIA, October 3,2022 (India Blooms): Thousands of devotees from across India and abroad congregated at Belur Math — the global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission — to watch Kumari puja, or the worship of a young girl Monday as the Durga puja carnival peaked in West Bengal. After night-long pandal hopping, people in the eastern state woke up to the chants of mantras on Maha Ashtami – the eighth day of the lunar calendar and the third day of the Durga puja festivities. According to Hindu mythology, it was on this day that the Goddess slayed Mahishasura – the buffalo demon king – to rid the Earth of evil. The rituals began in the morning with the customary Kumari puja – worship of girls as personifications of the Goddess.

The traditional Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 at the Belur Math, six miles from Kolkata in Howrah district. An unmarried girl between one to sixteen years bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger is the right requisite for the Kumari puja. She sits on a throne or a decorated chair before the Goddess, as the priest chants hymns amid the sound of dhak (traditional drum). After the puja the divinity of the Goddess is said to descend into the Kumari. In Kolkata, around 2,700 community pujas are being held. Besides, the Goddess is being worshiped in another 5,000 households in the city. Tens of thousands of marquees have come up elsewhere in the state.