Another Sabarimala: A Kolkata Kali Puja Bars Women

Women are not allowed to step into a Goddess’s (female God) Puja. Ironic, isn’t it? Just like the barring of women in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a 34-year-old Kali Puja in Kolkata is now getting media attention as it doesn’t allow women to step inside the marquee premises.

Gangaram Shaw, the executive body member of the Chetla Pradip Sangha which holds this Puja says, “Our 34-year-old Panchamunda Kali Puja follows tantra rituals. Tantric priests from Tarapith have been conducting the Puja. We had questioned our ancestors about the discrimination, but they said a female is not even allowed to touch anything in this Puja.”

“As organizers, we want women to be included in the Puja but as this is not our Puja, we have to follow whatever the tantrics say.”, said another organizer.

On the other hand, a priest of Tarapith temple, Mulmantra Roy, 81, expressed immense surprise to the rule. He said, “I am one of the oldest priests here and I know there are no such rules that prevent the entry of women. Our temple is open for all and I am wondering how are those priests talking about such restrictions.”

The Puja committee, with a budget of around Rs 300,000, has put up a 15-feet-tall idol this year.

But they simply plead helplessness over bringing about any change. Gangaram said, “People come in large groups and the ground that you can see beside the mark helps in managing the crowd. We allow them to worship from outside. The restriction is really surprising as the Goddess herself is a woman, but it cannot be changed.”

Surprisingly, women seem least bothered about the restrictions as they don’t want to break the age-old tradition.

Mithu Mantri, a woman resident said, “I have seen this Puja since it started. Women can be part of the procession of bringing the idol and also join the visarjan. But once the rituals of the Puja begin, we cannot step inside. This has been the rule and we have followed it with devotion.”

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