An Indian woman’s ideal husband ? Lord Shiva. So it is He that they wrship year after year, in the hopes of getting someone like him. What do they find appealing in a weed-smoking-free-of-the-cares-of-the-world kind of man is what baffles me though. Anyway it is not in my nature to question the ladies. They are never wrong.
But who’s a mother-in-law’s ideal wife to her son ? Obviously the Kola-Bou or the Banana bride of Lord Ganesha. Mythology has it, that Lord Ganesha had set off for his wedding, when suddenly he remembered that he had left behind something at home. The wedding ring may be. Whatever it might have been, Ganesha immediately hastened home for it. But there he found his mother, Devi Durga gorging on a variety of food with all her ten hands. Rare sight for the kid, who had always seen some deadly weapon or the other in her mother’s hands, he was curious what had prompted the sudden feast ?
To which Durga replied, “what if your wife doesn’t let me eat once she arrives ?”
Ganesha was heartbroken. As most Indian men, the mother’s wish is paramount. Wife’s comes much later. If at all! So the dutiful son that he was, he immediately cut off a branch from a banana plant and presented it to his mother, saying that was to be his wife in future. Obviously Durga had no threat from a mute bride like the banana tree.
(Moral of the story: If even Devi Durga with all her fierce weapons and indomitable warrior spirit can feel afraid of her son’s wife-to-be, why blame the earthly mortal mothers for their fear of the same? )
Anyway we return to the story of Ganesha’s bride. The Banana Tree. She is seen accompanying her husband (standing meekly by his side would be a more apt description), with her face covered in a pallu, and bowing down pretty strikingly- showing her rather submissive spirit.
But even such a bride is not enough to quell the fears of the Mother-in-law (Devi Durga). So we have another twist in the tale, which says, that the Kola Bou is not infact Ganesha’s wife!
It is instead an incarnation of Devi Durga herself, standing beside Ganesha (protecting her eligible son from the stares of wannabe brides I am sure). The Form said to be a conglomeration of nine leaves, from nine trees, which symbolizes different forms of Durga. Hence it is also known as Naba-Patrika (nine leaves). It comes from the ancient custom of worshipping trees for a good harvest.
So an integral part of Durga puja is the Kola bou and its ‘Snan’ (bathing of the Banana bride). This is what heralds the beginning of the Devi worship. On Saptami morning, people are hence seen carrying the banana tree with great care, to the Shores of the Holy Ganges, where they tie the nine different leaves to the banana tree; bathe her, and drape her with a new red-and-white sari, the characteristic of a new bride.
So when we caught glimpes of the Kola Bou Snan (bathing of the bride) at Bagbazar Ghat, we decided to share with our readers a few snaps, that gives a peek into the behind-the-scenes activities of Durga Puja 🙂
(Written by Archya, The trying-to-be-global bangali babu, who is attempting to carve out a niche for himself in blogosphere, having had mixed results in Medicine Practice. In short, a struggling artist)
Stay Tuned for our Puja Parikrama Part Two- coming up soon 🙂
Our other Write-ups on Durga Puja :