The day begins at pre-dawn hours and the most significant ritual of Saptami is “kola bou snan”, a visual treat to enjoy. Kola or banana plant is always considered as sacred, auspicious and holy in Hindu rituals, and no puja is performed without the banana stalks, especially in Bengali culture.
Kola bau (literally translating, banana lady) is in fact represent Devi Durga and is adorned in yellow and red border garad saree. Early morning the priest with much fanfare (in the old times during zamindar era, this was accompanied by the musician who used to play different ragas during different steps of rituals) will take the kola bou to holy ganges or nearby ponds or lakes to give a bath. The bathing rituals is fascinating to watch and similar to coronation of king.
The twigs of white “aparajita” plant along with nine bunches of yellow threads are used to tie the Nabapatrika. It is then bathed with waters from 8 different holy places. This bathing ritual is accompanied with varied mantras and diverse musical instruments for different goddesses.
Kola bau in fact represents “nabapatrika” or worshiping of nine different plants. This is an age old tradition from the time when idol worshiping was not popular and unheard of. Mostly carried out by the peasant folks for good harvest, who used to collect nine different plants like banana plant (represents goddess Bhramani), colacassia (represents goddess Kalika), turmeric plant (represents goddess Durga), jayanti tree (goddess Karthiki) , wood apple tree (goddess Shiva, another name for goddess Durga), pomegranate tree (goddess Raktadantika), Ashoka (goddess Sokrahita), Arum plant (goddess Chamundi) and rice plant (goddess Lakshmi).
These nine plants represents nine form of shakti. And hence it is believed that Ma Durga resides in Kola bau. The priest then put it beside Lord Ganesha. This lead to the popular misconception that kola bau is consort of Lord Ganesha wherein actually kola bau represents Ma Durga and is mother of Lord Ganesha. Symbolically kola bau also represents that after the fierce battle and victory of good over evil, the order of the world may be re-established and luxuriant vegetation reappear.
After this MahaSaptami pujo begins, followed by pushpanjali.
On this day, there are no food taboo as such and people are free to gorge on anything they fancy. Again this depends from family to family. In those families, like us, long back when we used to do Durga puja in our homes, the kitchen turned into pure sattvik ones. This is usually the routine when you bring Ma Durga to home and worship her with devotion, you do not cook non veg food. But now a days, when Durga puja is a community affair, you are free to taste any sumptuous Bengali dishes, which includes non-veg too.
So, here is my MahaSaptami special food menu –