Sending out a message of communal harmony, a family in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district on Sunday worshipped a four-year-old Muslim girl as part of Kumari Puja on 'Maha Ashtami' -- the second day of Durga Puja.
The Dutta family of Arjunpur in North 24 Parganas has been organising the puja at its house since 2013. This year, the Duttas decided to break away from tradition to send out the message of "inclusiveness and communal harmony".
As part of Kumari Puja, pre-puberty girls are worshipped as Goddess Durga. It is an important part of 'Maha Ashtami' celebrations.
According to tradition, only a Brahmin girl can be worshipped as Kumari.
"Earlier we used to worship only Brahmin girls as Kumari due to casteist and religious connotations. But we all know that Maa Durga is the mother of every human being on this earth and has no religion, caste or creed. So we broke the tradition," said Tamal Dutta, who is an engineer at the local municipality.
"We had earlier worshipped a non-Brahmin girl and this time we worshipped a Muslim girl," he added. Once it was decided to worship a Muslim girl, the Duttas faced an uphill task of finding one.
Dutta asked his colleague Mohammed Ibrahim for help. Ibrahim told Dutta about his niece, Fatima, who lives in Agra with her parents.
Ibrahim also convinced his sister and brother-in-law about the idea, Dutta said. Fatima, who is yet to start her schooling, and her mother have been staying with the Duttas for the ceremony.
Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda at the Belur Math to underline the importance of women in the society.