Kalparambha ritual is conducted on Shashti tithi. The festival of Durga Puja starts in the Shukla Paksha of Ashwin month. Devotees offer prayers to their ancestors at the river banks, a ritual called Tarpan. The unveiling of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja lasts for three days - Mahasaptami, Maha-Ashtami, Mahanavami. The festival involves chanting Mantras, reciting Shlokas, singing Arati and offerings. The festival of Durga Puja, also known as “Durgotsava” is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The five-days festival is celebrated during the period of Sharad Navratri in the month of Ashwin. Panchami, Shashti, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijayadashami are the most important days of Durga Puja. The festivities begins from the fifth day of Navratri (Sharad Navratri) which is known as Bilva Nimantran and culminates on the Dashmi Tithi or Vijayadashami. Kalparambha marks the beginning of Durga Puja festivities in West Bengal. The ritual of Kalparambha is observed a day prior to Navpatrika Puja which is also known as Kolabou Puja.
The most auspicious time to observe the Kalparambha ritual is early morning. This custom involves installing a pot or a Kalash filled with water, invoking Goddess Durga in a Bilva tree and taking a Sankalp to perform the Durga Puja by following all the necessary customs and practices in the most religious manner for the next three days i.e. Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami. The ritual of Ghatasthapna on the first day of Navratri is similar to the ritual of Kalparambha.
Significance and Legend:
According to a Hindu legend, a Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, after years of praying to Lord Brahma, was granted a boon which made him invincible. Any man or God could not kill him. After gaining power, Mahishasura started destroying the world. He began to kill people and became a threat for Gods. To annihilate Mahishasura, Goddess Durga emerged from the collective energies of Gods as a divine feminine power. The victory of Good over the Evil is celebrated during Durga Puja. Another popular legend says that Goddess Durga visits her mother’s place during Sharda Navratri.
The ritual of Kalparambha is then followed by Bodhon. Bodhon implies awakening. So, this ritual is basically awakening Goddess Durga symbolically.
As per Hindu scriptures, all the Gods and Goddesses sleep during Dakshiyana which is a period of 6 months. And, Durga Puja falls during the middle of this phase, so, the devotees have to awaken Goddess Durga before they worship her.
The ritual of Bodhon was first time observed by Lord Rama, who before fighting Ravana, wanted to worship Goddess Durga. This ritual is also known as Akal Bodhon because there is no specific time to invoke Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga is invoked untimely which is why this ritual is known as Akal Bodhon.
In the Ramayana, Rama goes to Lanka to rescue his abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the king of the Demons in Lanka. Before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the blessings of Devi Durga. He came to know that the Goddess would be pleased only if she is worshipped with 108 Neel Kamal (blue lotuses). After travelling the whole world, Rama could gather only one hundred and seven of them. He finally decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled blue lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared before him and blessed him. The battle started on the Saptami and Ravana was finally killed on the Sandhikshan (i.e., the crossover period between Ashtami [the next day] and Navami [the day after]). Ravana was killed on the tenth day, Dashami. Since the period of this worship was different from the conventional period, this puja is also known as Akal-Bodhan; a worship (Bodhan) in an unconventional time (A-Kaal).
During Durga Puja, one of the most important ritual on Mahasaptami, or the seventh day, i.e. today, is the bathing of the Kala-bou or the banana-bride.
On this day, a small banana tree is taken to the river Ganga, and given a ceremonial bath. The tree is then draped in a white saree with red border, with some sindur or the vermillion powder applied on its leaves. hereafter, the tree is kept on the right side of the idol of Ganesh, implying that she is the bride of Lord Ganesh.
However, the traditionalists differ on the concept of the Kala-bou as they see it signifying the coming together of Naba-patrika, or the nine leaves. On the trunk of the banana tree are tied the leaves of the following trees –
1. Holud gaach or the turmeric tree
2. Bel gaach of the wood apple tree
3. Daalim gaach or the pomegranate tree
4. Maankochu or the arum plant
5. Rice plant
6. Ashok tree
7. Kochu gaach of the colacassia plant
8. Jayanti gaach of the saal tree
Each of the above also stand for different forms of goddesses, like the banana tree representing Goddess Brahmani, turmeric tree representing Durga, wood apple tree representing Lord Shiva himself, the pomegranate tree representing Raktabija, Arum plant for Chamunda, rice for Lakshmi, Ashok tree for Sokrahita, the colacassia for Goddess Kalika and the Jayanti for Kartiki.
All the goddesses are different forms of the Goddess Durga. Needless to mention, that each plant/tree has its significance in the day to day life of a common man, either in the form of staple diet, or as a spice of as part of medicinal plant.
Many have even opined that the Nabapatrika is a form of Durga herself, which symbolises all the aspects of nature in a complex vegetative state. According to a scholar the plant symbolises the “festive enactment of Durga’s return of the blood of the buffalo demon to the earth so that the order of the world be re-established and luxuriant vegetation appear.” As far as placing the Nabapatrika next to Lord Ganesh’s idol is concerned, it can be surmised that the same is due to Lord Ganesh being credited to be the creator of eighteen medicinal plants, for which he is known as Astadasausadhisrsti.
Many also feel that the worship of Kala-bou in the form of Nabapatrika might not have anything to do with Lord Ganesh at all. It could just have been a local or a primitive practice of worshipping the Mother Earth for a rich harvest and with the popularity of the Durga Puja, this ritual was assimilated in the festivities. In the absence of idol-worship, the Nabapatrika was the symbol of Mother Nature herself.
Autumn or sharad-ritu was also the season for reaping crops and the peasants worshipped the Nabapatrika for a rich and bountiful harvest. As far as the placement of the Kala-bou is concerned, since Kartik was a confirmed bachelor, it was logical to place ‘her’ next to Ganesh! In fact, the worshipping of Nabapatrika in its original form is still prevalent in some parts of Eastern India.
Finally, to conclude, here is an interesting folktale related to Kola-bou. According to this tale, the wedding procession of Ganesh had not gone very far from home, when Ganesh remembered that he had forgotten something. On returning, he found his mother Durga eating bowlfuls of rice and gorging herself. Ganesh found it odd and asked his mother, as to why was she gorging herself. To this Durga is supposed to have said – “Jodi tor bou aamaake khete na dai? (What if your wife did not give me enough food to eat?). Hearing this Ganesh was upset, he stepped out of his home, cut a banana tree and gave it to her saying “etai tomar bou (this is your daughter-in-law)”. Later, Ganesh was married off to the banana tree and thus the name Kala-bou, or the banana bride.
Interestingly, till quite some time back, in rural Bengal many mother-in-laws would be in a perennial fear of not getting enough food when their new daughter-in-laws came home, and tried to wield more authority on their sons. An interesting folk tale with mythological connotations, where the food has always been a source of trouble!