A Tale Of Two Devis

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Sulagna Chakroborty

It was summer and our courtyard was full as always had been. He was playing the drum (Dhak) and turning on his heels. The decorative plumes on the drum were touching the faces of the children standing nearby. After a while he stopped and started singing in a peculiar Bengali dialect. My mother and aunt extended their alms and he left our courtyard. My Granny left a long breath as he left.

In those days local deities used to earn a lot of respect in their localities. Urbanization and industrialization could not reduce their statute and different Chandis were worshiped throughout the year. The drummer was from the temple of Olaichandi who saved her devotees from cholera. People were afraid to talk about these local deities who were supposed to be very sensitive.

Those days have gone and I left Bengal twenty five years back. We are settled in Visakhapatnam of Andhra Pradesh, a southern state of India. Visakhapatnam is a north eastern port city of Andhra Pradesh. As a port it is connected to other states along Bay of Bengal. It was a trade route of Buddhists, then the Vaishya community, then the Portuguese and the English. A lot of social interaction took place among these states. Olai chandi of Bengal, Rankini of Odisha, Kanaka Maha Lakshmi of AndhraPradesh – all are considered as local deities who protect their devotees from Cholera.

The Kanaka Lakshmi shrine of Visakhapatnam is a big temple now. It is said that the idol was unearthed from a well.  Local people built a shrine and the idol was instated. Later a Collector wanted to expand the road and shifted the idol to a new temple with roof. It is said that Kanaka Maha Lakshmi appeared in the dream of the collector and expressed her concern about the temple with roof. As the collector did not pay much attention, the curse of Kanaka Maha Lashmi was felt by Vizagites within short time. Cholera broke out and hundreds of people died. Now the collector once reinstated the idol in old temple and made her happy.

It has been observed that  in the garbha griha still does not have roof. Brahmins and non Brahmins both can touch the idol throughout the year which is not possible for any Vedic God. The idol is north facing which shows pre Vedic tradition according local historians. As Chandi became popular by Banik caste of Bengal Kanaka Maha Lakshmi Devi became popular by Kamaty Vaishya caste. It shows that an early  interaction along the coast long back.

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Post Author: Sulagna Chakraborty

Sulagna Chakrabarty
Occupation : Teacher of Geography. Her hobby is reading books, listening songs and traveling. Address : DAV School /Sector 3 / Visakhapatnam VSP Township /AP 530032.

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