The presiding deity of Vindyachal, a pilgrimage site 8km from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, has found place in the hearts and belief of people of Dakshineswar. Vindhyavasinitala near the Adhyapeeth temple gets its name from the goddess who is worshipped in grandeur at an annual puja every year held at this time of the year. Devotees from North 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata throng this nondescript locality in Dakshineswar at this time to offer their prayers to the deity. The puja is said to be more than 180 years old and it has always been organised as a community or barowari puja. “We have always heard that someone in this locality had dreamt of the deity almost 180 years ago and had travelled with his friends to Vindyalchal to see the temple and the form of the goddess. The same deity was replicated here and puja started from that time onwards,” said Sandip Banerjee, the secretary of the puja committee.
The deity is a form of Durga with eight hands, standing on a lion. The myth originates from the birth of Krishna. Kansa kept his sister Devaki and brother-in-law, Vasudev in prison, with the intention of killing their children right at birth. On the birth of Krishna, the eighth child and dreaded killer of Kansa, Vasudev carried the child to Gokul where he was exchanged with a daughter born to Yasoda and Nanda. The daughter was brought back to the prison and when Kansa tried to kill this child as well, it flew out of his hands and disappeared announcing, “The one to kill you is already born.” This deity was Mahamaya or Chandi who, it is believed, decided to reside in Vindhyachal, from where she came to be called Vindhyavasini. At the Dakshineswar puja, Vindhyavasini is seen flanked by Kansa the demon on one side, Shiva and Vishnu on either side and Garur at the Vishnu’s feet. Earlier the puja would be performed in a pandal, but a few years ago, a permanent bedi or dais has been constructed for the deity.
The 180 years old puja is easy for devotees and locals to remember since it begins on the special day of Jamai Sashthi. It continues for five days and ends on Dashami or Dasahara or Ganga puja. The puja is performed following all the rituals of Durga Puja, including the sacrifice (bali) and Sandhi Puja on Ashtami. The puja is accompanied by a huge mela or fair which is the source of fun for families and children. “This mela is the biggest fair organised in this area which is why people throng the fair and the puja in lakhs during these five days,” said Banerjee.