Protecting the girl child: What our rituals teach us
Dr K K Aggarwal
The 9-day Navratri fast is broken on the eight (ashtami) or the ninth (navami) day of Navratri by worshipping 8 or 9 girl children, of prepubertal age and older than 2 years. This ritual is called ‘kanya puja’.
The tenth day of the festival is celebrated as Dussehra in the country as the day when Lord Ram killed Ravana. The burning of effigies of Kumbhkaran, Meghnath and Ravana symbolize killing of one’s tamas, rajas and ahankar denoting the victory of good over evil.
The nine girls worshipped during ‘kanya puja’ are regarded as the nine forms of ‘Devi’ or ‘Durga’ or mahashakti, which regulates creation, preservation and destruction on earth.
This ritual of ‘kanya puja’ not only has religious significance, it has social relevance too. With the increasing violence against female child in the form of female feticide, infanticide or sexual abuse, this ritual gives the message that every girl child needs to be protected from abuse of any kind, be it physical or mental.
A vrata or fast means ‘to vow’; it teaches self-control or control over desires. The festival of Navratri is the process of detoxification of body, mind and soul, at the end of which a person attains purification of soul and learns to exercise restraint. Since ages, this festival has spread the values and stresses the need to protect and take care of the girl child.