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Sindoor Khela (Vermillion game) is a tradition, which is followed every year on the day of Vijayadashami. For all the Bengali women, this is the final ritual which holds a great significance. This year, in 2019, Durga Puja has begun from 28 September and will end on 8 October.
On Vijayadashami or the last day of Durga Puja, married women put on sindoor or vermilion on Maa Durga's forehead and feet and thereafter they apply it on the other married women present around them.
This ritual is enjoyed just like a game and thus it is called "Sindoor Khela". Women enjoy smearing sindoor on each other. Since sindoor is a sign of a married woman, this ritual means to wish each and everyone a good fortune and a happy married life.
History Behind Sindoor Khela
Sindoor Khela dates back to around 400 years. It was the time when people had just started celebrating Durga Puja. According to a famous legend, every year during Durga Puja, Maa Durga comes back to her parents place (father Giriraj and mother Menoka).
She also brings her daughters (Saraswati and Lakshmi), two sons (Ganesh and Kartik) and 2 companions (Bijoya and Jaya) along with her.
Maa Durga stays along with her parents for only 4 days and on Vijayadashami, she has to return to Shiva (her husband) in the far Himalayas.
Before bidding the final goodbye to the Goddess, women apply sindoor on Durga's feet and forehead and then they play with vermilion or sindoor with each other. They also pray to the Goddess for their happy and long married lives.
Rituals Before And After The Sindoor Khela
Vijayadashami is the farewell day of Maa Durga and on this very day, the Goddess is revered to as "Aparajita". This day is concluded with the Maha Arati, which mainly marks the ending of all the prayers and rituals of Durga Puja.
A shital bhog is offered to the Goddess, which comprises Kochur Shaak, Panta Bhaat and Ilish Macher Bhaja. Thereafter, the priest executes the Visarjan Puja.
The purpose of Visarjan Puja is to beg the goddess to go back to her heavenly abode who was earlier called upon in Navapatrika and was given the honour.
This particular ritual is followed by the Prasasthi Vandana. A mirror is positioned before Maa Durga and all her devotees stare into the mirror to get a glimpse of the Goddess's feet.
The mirror represents that whenever Maa Durga is bathed as per any particular ritual, it is not actually the deity that is bathed, but its reflection.
Next ritual is the "Devi Boron", which is the final goodbye to the Goddess by all the married women of the neighbourhood. The women carry out the Aarti of the deity and coat her with sindoor. They also offer her paan (or beetle leaf) and sondesh (a dry sweet).
Lastly, all the women rejoice this farewell by smearing vermilion on each other, sharing sweets and by wishing each other a blessed married life.
After boron and sindoor khela, Maa Durga's idol is carried out of the pandal and made ready for the departure, for the immersion in the Ganga. This ritual is known as "Visarjan", in which a splendid farewell celebration is organized by the devotees.
On the banks of the river Ganga, the last Aarti is performed just before submerging the idol. Finally, the deity is submerged into water with the utmost care and vigilance.
After the Visarjan ritual, people come back to their places and in the evening, they visit each other at their places. People wish each other by saying "Shubho Bijoya" and they embrace each other. Young people seek blessings from their elders for a happy and prosperous life.