For members belonging to the transgender community of Kolkata, this year’s Durga Puja celebration just got a bit sweeter. As the city of joy gears to usher Maa Durga, one particular south Kolkata residence is already decked up, just in time to celebrate what is being regarded as “breaking the stereotypes.”
An all-inclusive Durga Puja
The Supreme Court’s reading down of Section 377 undoubtedly, elated scores of people all across the country. While inclusivity and homosexuality seem to be the reigning theme for this year’s puja, the city’s transgender community has taken up the mammoth task of organising an all-inclusive celebration of Goddess Durga. For the first time, community members, as well as all other marginalised sections of the society, will come together to join the week-long celebrations, just without the harassment, stigma and shame. This puja draws inspiration from the Navratri festival which coincides with Durga Puja and hence, is being celebrated for nine days.
The puja might be small, however, its grandeur lies not in its size, but the message behind it. The Logical Indian spoke to Ranjita Sinha, a member of West Bengal Transgender Board and a transgender activist who has been spearheading Kolkata’s first ever Durga Puja organised by the members of the community.
The puja organised at Ranjita’s residence at Gokhale Road in unique in every sense of the term. Steering clear of the conventional understanding of Durga, the organisers have created an Ardhanarishwar idol (half male and half female). Ranjita said, “We wanted to organise the puja because it is important to highlight and raise awareness on the plight of the transgenders as well other marginalised members of the community.” She added that the half male and half female deity has been worshipped in our culture for ages, but when it comes to humans, we tend to loathe and express disgust.
Everything was self-financed at this Puja
The idea to organise a puja by themselves did not occur to them until a few days ago. “I wanted a safe haven for members of the community to enjoy themselves, without the harassment,” added Ranjita. Their idea was further propelled by the landmark judgement which struck down homosexuality to be a criminal offence. About 15 days ago, Ranjita, along with other members of the community planned the Durga Puja, however, a paucity of time and lack of funds led them to scale down the event and confine it to Ranjita’s residence.
Everything at this unique puja is either self-financed or sponsored by members of the community. In fact, the idol too is created by themselves under the guidance of Kumartuli idol makers. Ranjita said that big socio-cultural events like the pujas have routinely excluded people belonging to the marginalised community from participating in the event like the rest of us. Right from the food, the decorations, the cultural activities, every aspect of the puja is being looked after by transmen or transwomen, said Ranjita.
What makes it more special is the fact that the organisers have lined up cultural activities for each of the days and on Ashtami or the eighth day, they are going to conduct Kumari Puja by inviting in street children.
Ranjita was right in pointing out that the marginalised sections are subjected to neglect and harassment in gatherings. This year’s puja is nothing but a mere attempt to change the status quo, break the shackles of the age-old tradition based on hierarchy and patriarchy, and establish a ‘sarbojonin’ (everyone) Durga Puja in the truest sense of the term. While the puja this year only constitutes 70 odd people, from next year on, Ranjita wishes to make the affair even bigger.
At times of celebrations like these, we tend to forget the plight of those who are marginalised. However, like all things good, the community’s efforts in making Durga Puja all inclusive is surely a right step towards the much-needed equality. The Logical Indian community applauds the efforts of the organisers.