How a goddess called Corona Devi came to be worshipped in West Bengal

In good faith Women in Nichupara Basti in West Bengal perform a pooja for ‘Corona Devi’ special arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

While the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, a small group of women from a village in West Bengal, have decided to fight it in their own way.

It all began at Asansol city’s Nichupara Basti, where they got together to appease Corona Mai, or Corona goddess.

They did so in all good faith: a small pooja was arranged on the banks of Chinnamasta pond in the area. Women from various age groups gathered at 8 am — the rituals went on till 9 am.

They sang songs and mantras as they made their way to the spot. Earlier in the day, people in the settlement requested that every woman join in.

They sat on the grassy floor in a row, and placed a line of flowers in front of them. Incense sticks were lit, and fruits, vegetables, ghee, and jaggery were offered to the devi. Said 23-year-old Nita Das, a local resident: “We hope that Corona devi ensures that the virus leaves us forever.” The women even made motichur laddoos for the goddess.

They carved out portions of the soil, placed all the offerings inside, and covered it. They chanted prayers as they did so — the atmosphere was heavy with the smell of incense and flowers; their eyes were closed in prayerful concentration, and mantras rent the air. “Our offerings and chants will win us some respite from the virus,” added Nita.

Forty-five-year-old Nilanjan Mukherjee from the nearby Rabindranagar area disagrees. Nilanjan, who runs a grocery shop at the pooja site, objects to the violation of physical distancing norms. “If things go on like this, we will soon get infected by the disease instead of recovering,” he said.

At the pooja, there were women in their early twenties, as well as those as old as 75. Many of them were dailywagers, and spent around ₹500 on buying the material for the rituals alone. According to them, the Coronavirus is a creation of Shitala Devi, whom some cultures consider the goddess of relief. They pray to her to be cured of diseases such as smallpox and measles. “We have decided to worship Corona devi every Monday and Friday till she becomes satisfied,” said 56-year-old Sabita Prasad, as she lit an incense stick.

And what does Corona devi look like? To the women of Nichupara Basti, she is formless. She can be the wind that rattles their tile-roofed houses at night, the sun, the water in the pond nearby...

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 8:51:15 PM |

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