Kolkata: Devotees converged at the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission for Kumari Puja, the worship of a girl as the Durga Puja carnival reached its climax in West Bengal with Mahashtami and Mahanavami merging Thursday.
The generally five-day carnival, shortened to a four-day affair this year as decreed by the almanac, is being celebrated across the state with everyone joining in with enthusiasm nd religious fervour.
Mahashtami ended Thursday noon and the Mahanavami puja began after the end of Sandhi Puja held at the confluence of Mahashtami (eighth lunar day) and Mahanavami (ninth lunar day). Mahanavami will end Friday morning.
An ambiance of merriment prevailed over the entire city as devotees dressed in their best offered anjali (floral offerings) to goddess Durga amid heavy beats of drums, chimes of bells and twinkling lamps (diyas).
The rituals began in the morning with Kumari Puja where girls are worshipped as the goddess.
Belur Math in Howrah district, 10 km from Kolkata, saw a huge gathering.
Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 to underline the importance of women in the society.
The girl who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on the earth.
The young girl fasts until the puja is over. She is made to sit before the goddess's idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and drums being played in the background.
After the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the girl, said a priest.
As per Hindu mythology, goddess Durga killed Chando and Mundo, two demons at the confluence (Sandhi) of Mahashtami and Mahanavami.