By Sunil Garodia
A campaign is building around the invocation Bengalis make at the time of offering anjali to the Goddess Durga during the Durga Puja festival. In the invocation are the words putran dehi which are raising the hackles of many. The premier daily newspaper in Kolkata, The Telegraph, has started a movement (visit askfor.org for details and for supporting the movement) that seeks to replace the words putran dehi (give me a son) with the words santanan dehi (give me a child).
It is quite surprising that Bengalis, who worship most female deities, have been mindlessly praying for a son all these years. Even in Bengali households, the daughter is always the apple of the eye and has much more clout than a son. Then why this mindless invocation for a son, something which not in the Bengali character?
One believes it was because no one had thought about it previously. People generally do not give much thought to what the purohit tells them to utter during puja. Other aratis are also full of lines where "jo koi 'nar' gawe" (bless the man who sings it) rule the roost. Do only men worship? What about women? Ideally, the lines should be "jo koi bhakt gawe" (bless the worshipper who sings it). But in a patriarchal society, it was always the man who was put in front. Women were just there to sit beside him during the puja and maybe sometimes hold his hand as he made offerings to the deity.
But with girls now breaking free of the years of discrimination, supporting their family and old parents much better than some boys and shining in all fields, there is no need to utter putran dehi. Santanan dehi is the best option for those who want a child. For others, there is no need to utter any such words.