Another set of memories associated with Durga Pooja are those of Durga Baadi in Purnia. In a typical Bengali set-up, you would see people around the pandal all through the day. There would be several competitions and so long I was there, I was a regular participant and winner in several of these. Gained some pelasant acquaintences there, who would probably always remember me as that little girl whom I escorted from the venue of one of the competitions to that of the other!! Me being in final year of B. Tech. or doing my MBA suddenly reminded them of “how fast the time passes!”
There were some funny experiences. There used to be Ramayana and Mahabharata quizzes as part of the set of competitions there. Once in that quiz I was asked that who was the sister of Lord Rama in Ramayana. Came as a surprise to me. Valmiki Ramayana or Ramcharitmanas do not mention Rama having any sister! Came back home perplexed. Nobody at home knew of anything like this either. Later when I met my music teachers, I told them about this question. It seems the Bengali Ramayana mentions Lord Rama having a sister (I can not take a definitive stand here. Haven’t read it myself. Am only reiterating what was told to me). She was called Shanta. Okay – so I was prepared to face the quiz next year. Next, year I was asked who was Rama’s brother-in-law (Shanta’s husband). I cracked it this time, because I had read a translation of Ramayana by Chakravarti Rajgopalachari, which had a character called Shanta, though she was not mentioned as Rama’s sister there. There, her husband was Rishi Rishyashring (Now all this is quite mixed up because he was also the one who is mentioned as the purohit (priest) of putreshti yagna (Yagna done with the purpose of getting a son) that King Dashratha had carried out. I replied Rishyashringa and was correct. Thank God till the next year. And the question asked to me was who was Rishyashringa’s father!! There you go Jaya Jha. I did not know.
Somehow can never forget this funny experience of tracing the whereabouts of Rama’s sister, when with my upbringing I did not believe one existed 😀 As far as I recall, later they started giving options to the participnts for being asked questions from Begali Ramayana or Valmiki Ramayana. Must have been a relief to non-Bengali participants!! 🙂