Shidur Khela or literally, The Vermillion Play, is a tradition which is followed every year on the last day of Durga Puja (Dashami) in front of the idol of Goddess Durga prior to her immersion in the holy waters. It is purely a Bengali ritual followed by married women and holds great significance. This ritual is enjoyed like an act of smearing Vermillion on each other’s faces and thus it is called “Shidur Khela”.
Being married to a Bengali husband, I am fortunate to get a chance to celebrate Durga Puja the Bengali way, every year. I think being brought in a culture who believes in Goddess Durga, the Bengalis know how to respect women and my husband is no different. I believe, In Bengali culture, women are given more importance than any other culture. So I have no complaints being married in a traditional Bengali family.
Durga Puja is the Hindu Bengalis’ biggest festival. It’s a six-day festival divided among Mahalaya, Shashti, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijayadashami (Bijoya Dashami). Though every day is special of this festival and holds great significance, one of the interesting ritual of this six-day festival is Shidur Khela on the Bijoya Dashami day.
Shidur Khela symbolizes the power of womanhood and mainly the power of the women to protect her husband from all maladies and to wish a long happy life of her better half. Married Women offer Baran (farewell ritual) to the Goddess with Pradip (a traditional lamp), vermillion, betel leaves and sweets. After applying vermillion to the Goddess’ feet and forehead they start smearing it to all the married women around.
Although I have been playing Shidur Khela for the past four years, this year was a bit different for me. We were on our India visit during Durga Puja this year and celebrated it in more traditional way. My mother-in-law is very simple traditional Bengali woman and has been trying to teach me the Bengali traditions. She wants to make sure that as a Bado Bou (elder daughter-in-law) of the family, I know all about the culture and rituals followed by the family.
The days of the Durga Puja passed by quickly for me. On the morning of Bijoya Dashami while I was preparing Pooja thali for Baran (Baran Dala), my mother-in-law suggested to dress up in traditional Bengali attire.
Traditionally, Bengali women love to wear a white saree with red border, particularly on cultural events. The Shakha (white conch bangle) and Pola (red coral bangle) complement the attire beautifully.
She said it would be great if we drape our saree in Bengali style. I liked the idea and after she helped me with draping the saree, we both were ready for Pooja Pandal (the place where the ceremony is performed).
When we reached there, people were preparing Pooja Pandal for Baran and the women were waiting for the event to start. Most of the women were wearing white saree with red border. They were really amazed to see me in this attire as they were aware that I am a non-Bengali Bou. My mother-in-law’s friends kept coming to her and saying “Bouma kay ki bhalo lagche!” (“Your daughter-in-law is looking amazing!”). They were happy to see that even a newgeneration women is also enjoying the age old traditions. They were all praising me and mother-in-law’s efforts. And at that moment my mother-in-law was the happiest women on this earth.
Once the Pandal was ready, we took turns to perform Baran. In Baran, women apply vermillion to Goddess’ feet and forehead and offer betel leaves and sweets while praying for their family’s peace and prosperity. We followed every step of Baran and after that, it was time for Shidur Khela where we smeared vermillion on each other’s faces. After that we danced to the Dhak beats and offered sweets to each other.
It was a real good experience for me. I believe these kind of celebrations bring love and togetherness. And if you celebrate them with your near and dear ones, they become more enjoyable and unforgettable.