Durga Puja symbolises inclusivity and unity of the community as the festival brings together people across religion, race, creed and sexual orientation. One example of that is celebration held by the transgender community in Kolkata.
It is not just the community celebrating which is important but more than that is the fact that they do so by worshipping a special idol of Ardhanarishvara.
The idol is composite and is divided in half with the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Ardhanarishvara is very important concept in Hinduism and the half-female Goddess and half-male God represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and highlights the indivisibility of Shakti, the female principle of God from the male principle, Shiva.
Thus the idol is split in the middle with one half representing Goddess Parvati, the other standing for Lord Shiva. The characteristics of the idol are in keeping with the concept. Thus one half of the idol has a moustache, smaller eyelashes, and a dhoti while the other half is like the usual Durga idol.
Talking to ANI news agency, Ranjeeta, a member of the association of transgender persons who are organizing this festivity said: “We are celebrating Durga Puja in Garima Griha given to us by the central government for the training purpose of the transgender community. We are happy to celebrate Durga Puja here following all Covid-19 protocols. “
What is significant is that the Ardhanarishvara idol is permanently kept in Garima Griha and it has not been immersed, as per usual tradition, for four years. The transgender community worships the idol every day.
For the Durga Puja festivities, special rituals of Ardhanarishvara started on October 7 (Thursday). The Chief Guest on this special occasion was the Australian consulate general Rowan Ainsworth.
It was in 2015 when the Udyami Yubak Brinda Durga Puja committee joined hands with Pratyay Gender Trust, a local transgender collective, to commence worship of the Ardhanarishvara Durga idol.
Talking to HuffPost Anindya Hajra, one of the founder members of Pratyay said: "The idea is to explore the gendered lines keeping within the traditional framework. We are conscious of how sites of worship and associated rituals have Brahminical associations and often act as a site of misogyny, prejudice and violence. Ours is an attempt to question these practices and caste/ class structures and to cross gender lines."
Incidentally, the maker of this special idol is China Pal, who is the only woman artiste of Kumortuli, which is the traditional potters’ locality in north Kolkata.