I don’t know how many religious festivals the people in this country have, but it seems like there is one whenever I am here. Turns out this time that I came during the 10-day Durga Puja festival.
I can’t tell you much about it. Initially all I knew is that there was flatbed trucks with people on it playing loud music and a god-like idol in the front of the trailer facing the people. I learned that they take this god at the end of the festival and dunk it into a lake—leaving it there.
I talked to my handlers in this city and went online to learn that it celebrates a battle between good and evil—the goddess Durga against the “the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura,” who wishes to destroy the world. Fortunately, for us, she emerges victorious. So, each year they celebrate her victory with lots of food, firecrackers, loud music and the escort to the lake.
Unfortunately, in the northwestern city in this country there was tragedy associated with this year’s celebration. When revelers met to celebrate with fireworks on an empty lot where they have met for the past twenty years, the crowd was so large that it spilled onto the adjoining railroad tracks. No one saw the train coming around the corner and when the engineer saw them it was too late to stop. Sixty one souls went into eternity, either by being mowed down by the train or in the ensuing stampede. Seventy two were injured.
I don’t agree with the religious celebration. Oh I’m happy that good beats out evil, but pretty sure this is not how it was done. But tragedy is tragedy. And this is horrible. Perhaps it’s the amount of people that live in this the second most populous country in the world that somewhat cheapens life. According to the paper, the train company took a rather caviler attitude about the whole thing. They aren’t supposed to be on the tracks. They didn’t have a permit. They should know better. All of which might be true, but this doesn’t rise to the level of compassion for the enormity of the accident and loss of life.
The need for Jesus to be introduced to these people has never been greater. Part of our task is to train pastors who, in turn, will train their people how to reach their Nathanaels with the life–changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
PS - The goddess is left in the river, lake or ocean so as a “form of goodbye and her return to divine cosmos and Mount Kailash.” I asked my handler’s wife: “Doesn’t that add to the pollution of the water?” She noted that it is made of clay so that it will disintegrate. However, the idol is colorfully painted. I doubt that is eco–friendly paints.
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