Woman officiates as Priestess in a Public Kali Puja for the first time helped by SinghaBahini and NRIs

Durga Puja and Kali Puja are celebrated across Bharat and particularly in Bengal. Both deities represent Shakti or the Feminine Divine. The priests officiating these pujas are mostly males. However, an organization called SinghaBahini led by Devdutta Maji as the President of the organization has started a unique initiative. Motivated by the core Hindu belief of the soul that is shared by all of us and is not determined by external appearances, race, gender or birth, the organization is training women in Sanskrit Mantras and officiate pujas as Hindu Brahmin Priestess.  Sulata Mondal who officiated as the priestess is believed to be the first woman priest to officiate a public Kali Puja in recent times. 

The strong belief among many Hindus is that in ancient time the Hindu society based on the interpretations of Vedas and Bhagavad Gita was a strongly gender equal society. Around 30 women or Rishikas [1] find their names as scholars in the Vedas. 

They include Ghosha, Lopamudra, Maitreyi, Gargi and others. In addition, scientists and mathematicians in ancient India like Bhaskara II dedicated their scholarly books in the name of their daughters. Lilavati, a mathematical and astronomical masterpiece written by Bhaskara II in the name of his loving daughter is quite well known [2]. There were also many Hindu queens who ruled Hindu kingdoms in ancient times requiring significant scholastic abilities. Rani Durgavati, Rani Laxmi Bai of Janshi, Rani Chennamma or Kota Rani of Kashmir are quite famous. 

While women performing Saraswati puja was is now more commonplace, SinghaBahini has for the first time undertaken the arduous task of training Hindu Schedule Caste and Tribal women to first learn Sanskrit under expert guidance of Brahmin Purohits, learn specific mantras and then perform the pujas as Brahmin priestess. Devdutta Maji said " This is an effort to reclaim our ancient past, where social mobility, gender equality were common virtues in the Hindu society as dictated by our holy books. We strongly believe that this is not a reform effort but reclamation effort" 
The effort started last year. Sulata Mondal officiated the Saraswati Puja at Malda College and a few other Hindu women including some tribal women officiated the Pujas in their villages. This became quite a sensation and was reported in local newspapers [3]. This year priestess Sulata Mondal officiated a Durga Puja at home in Mednipur and a Public Kali Puja in North 24 Paraganas, West Bengal. 

The Non-Resident Indian community has been deeply supportive of the efforts. Dr. Rudra Nath Talukdar, a medical doctor who lives in US and has been supportive of the efforts said, "It's a wonderful initiative that is empowering, uplifting and shows the true egalitarian nature of Sanatan Dharma". Dr Souvik Dey, a researcher in US is also very supportive of the efforts. "The openness of the Hindu society is intrinsic to the faith. We strongly believe in the Feminine Divine as Shakti or Strength and thus it is makes spiritual sense to have the institution of priesthood being open to both men and women as was the situation in ancient times. The global community is thankful to SinghaBahini for this initiative", Souvik said. SinghaBahini President also called on the global Hindu community for more support in scaling up the efforts. "We want to take these efforts to all Hindus throughout Bharat so that all sections of the community unite and see themselves as owners of the Virat Hindu cause. We need the support of the global Hindu community to realize it. In the long run this will also help to promote and revive Sanskrit"


1) http://www.hitxp.com/articles/veda/vedic-education-women-school/ 
2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C4%ABl%C4%81vat%C4%AB  
3) https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/west-bengal/ms-priest/cid/1706575