West Bengal’s Sabarimala? This Kali Puja pandal in Kolkata has barred women for over three decades

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Updated: November 6, 2018 1:54:28 PM

While the protests around the Sabarimala verdict is raging in Kerala, a little-known Puja committee in the heart of Kolkata has been following the Sabarimala practice for over 34 years now.

Idol of the Pradeep Sangha Kali puja

The Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple has kicked up a series of protests in the state. The state government, maintaining its stand that it is bound to follow the top court’s order, the Hindu organisations, as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party, have launched protests against the SC verdict. Over 3,000 people were arrested in connection with the violence that hit the temple town when it opened its gates for public last month.

Amid anxiety in Kerala as Sabarimala readies to open the gates once again this month, a little-known Puja committee in the heart of Kolkata has been following the Sabarimala-like practice for over 34 years now – no woman, irrespective of their age, is never allowed inside the puja pandal.

Pronouncing the top court’s verdict, CJI Dipak Misra had observed that patriarchal rules have to change. “Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion.” However, the observations appeared to have little effect on this Puja committee of Chetla in Kolkata, which believes that allowing women to worship will only bring ‘misfortune’ to their locality.

Everything about the puja, from cutting the fruits to preparing the ‘bhog’, is being done by the male members of the area.

The Pradeep Sangha Kali puja of Chetla Haat Road worships a ‘pancha munda kali’, which has five forms of the Goddess fused in one. When FinancialExpress.com contacted the organisers of the puja, asking about the origin of this ‘ritual’ of not allowing woman in the pandal premise, Saibal Guha, Vice President of the committee said, “This has been going on ever since the beginning – 34 years ago, when a group of Tantricks from Tarapith Temple started the puja.”

Biswajit Barua, another member of the Puja committee further added that the Puja started after a local priest from Kalighat Kali Temple, Ratan Banerjee, got a “premonition in his dreams”. Following this, four priests were brought down from Tarapith Kali Temple, who dictated the rules – which has remained unchanged ever since.

However, even Tarapith, which is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, doesn’t have any such norms or rituals barring women from worshipping.

The organisers told FE Online that the women in the locality themselves do not want to be a part of the Puja – fearing that a tragedy would hit them. Even little girls are not allowed inside the premises. “We cordon off our pandal with barricades, so that no woman can even touch it,” said a member. And if the High Court orders them to allow women inside the pandal? Guha said, “It’s all about faith, not the legality. However, if that happens, we will have to consult our priests again and ask them about the right thing to do.”

This old South Calcutta neighbourhood lies close to the famous Kalighat Kali Temple. Every form of the Goddess can be found being worshipped in the lanes and by-lanes of this area during this time of the year. However, women are not banned out of any of these Pujas – even if they were in the past, the organisers actively included them in the celebration to keep up with the changing times.

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