While the festival of Durga Puja is round the corner, the artisans of kumortuli of Kolkata are busy shaping the majestic idols of the gods and goddesses. They put an effort for hours, days and months to create the beautiful and gigantic idols.
The idol makers create the clay idols with the ritualistic process of a priest. For crafting the exquisite pieces, it starts by collecting the clay.
However, collection of the clay has to follow with the various rituals of ingredients. According to the traditional Hindu rituals, four things are required to make the idols for Durga Puja that includes mud from the river Ganga, cow dung, cow urine and Nishiddho Pallis or soil from the forbidden territories.
The Punya Maati (blessed soil) is the soil from the house of the prostitutes. As per the tradition, the priests were supposed to go the brothels and beg for the 'Punya Maati' from the prostitutes. Then, the priest must recite a particular mantra after the soil is collected.
The idols are believed to be incomplete without the 'Punya Maati'. The soil is considered to be blessed and pure. It is believed that the people who visit the forbidden lanes of brothels leave behind their virtue and purity outside the house. This makes the soil at the doorstep pure.
Another belief according to Vedas is that nine classes of women known as Navkanyas has to be worshipped during the festival.
These are Nati or dancer/actress, Vaishya or prostitute, Rajaki or laundry girl, Brahmani or Brahmin girl, Shudra and Gopala or milkmaid. These women were known as Navakańyās. It is the belief that the worship of the Goddess is incomplete without paying respect to these women. The Goddess also destroyed Mahishasur, who looked down upon women. So, using the soil from outside the brothel is believed to be a way of respecting those women who have been looked down on by the society.
Many believed to revolve around the significance of the ‘Punya Maati,’ but the best reason could be welcoming all the sections of the society without any difference on the basis of caste and gender. This festival is a ceremony of inclusion of all the people of society.