My informant AM is an international student from Singapore, and her family is originally from Bengal, India. She goes back to Bengal every year, and spends most of the time in the capital city Kolkata.
AM: “Ramayana is an Hindu epic. The basic outline of the epic is that, there is a married couple, Ram and Sita. One day, the wife, Sita is kidnaped by a demon, Raavana … he’s a guy. After realizing that his wife is kidnaped, Ram goes on a journal to rescuing her. On the sixth day, Ram prays to the goddess Durga, and gains the power to defeat Raavana, which takes him 10 days in total. So the tenth day in Durga Puja is also seen as the day when Raavana is defeated.”
SH: You said that the festival’s name, “Puja” in “Durga Puja” means “prayer”, right? So do you think this is the festival that actually come from this epic story?
AM: “Most of the festivals in India are in someway all related to prayer or pray to the God. So many festivals have the name of ‘something something Puja’. But, yes, I think praying to God is definitely a large part of many Hindu stories.
SH: How do you know about all these stories about God and Goddess?
AM: “I just know them! [laugh] I think they are something that you know as a kid, whether is from TV or from books. I might learn all these from my grandma. She have countless stories to tell to kids, and lot of them base on those epic.”
Context of the performance:
This is a section from a conversation with my informant AM about how Indian culture and traditions are practiced in Singapore.
This epic story is told when AM wanted to explain one of the reason people celebrate Durga Puja festival.
My thoughts about the piece:
I mentioned about my discussion with AM about gender in Indian culture in my post of “Durga Puja”. However, though we both noticed that the goddess, the mother is the figure who are respected and prayed to, the two explanations of the festival – Durga goes to visit her mothers’ home and Ram prays to Durga and defeats the demon to save his girl – all indicates both how powerful women can be and how women still need to be bounded with men. Durga has to go back to her husband’s home at the end of the tenth day, and Sita is kidnaped by demon and has to be rescued by her husband. There is a tension between matriarchal and patriarchal in Indian epics and stories, which need to be further discussed.