I think the first time I witnessed Dilli ka Jagrata, first-hand was in 2011. I had recently shifted to a 1 room set in a society in Dwarka after staying in Gurgaon for almost 3 years. Being a devout Sanatani, I absolutely hated the college-fest-style celebration that Jagrata was.
I absolutely detested the way the idols were carried to the venue. A truck slowly made its way to the community park in which plastic idols of Devi Durga and a bunch of other gods were kept. The idols were fixed firmly with a thick rope. Imagine a tall statue of Devi Durga in the center, surrounded by idols of Hanuman ji, Ganesh ji, Shiv Ji, Krishna ji and Sai Baba (Yeah, he made it to the divine assembly too), all tied with ropes. The laborers listlessly hauled the idols and placed them on the ground. The rough handling of the idols pissed me off instantly. Then the idols were arranged in a linear fashion on the main stage. There are so many things wrong with it.
Firstly, idols are the representations of gods, they are not action figures to be hauled around and placed anywhere.
Secondly, you don’t handle the idols of gods like they are a sack of potatoes.
Thirdly, we don’t worship idols made of plastic. Idols of gods should be made of clay or wood or metal or stone. But Jagratas are more about convenience than dharma.
Fourthly, there was no sequencing or sense of direction while placing the idols, they simply put the idols linearly in a queue.
And finally, no one bothered to purify the ground beneath the idols. No sense of Bhumi Poojan at all.
Then began the real assault. A pundit came with a book, a brass lota with some water and started sprinkling water while chanting some inaudible mantras. Only the Om and Namah were perceptible. He sprinkled some water on the idols as huge JBL speakers began tormenting the residents of the society with sounds of temple bells in 3-D surround mode. He then went on to recite some mantras. There were 2 Devi Mantras in total (Sarva Mangal Mangalye…. And Jayanti Mangala Kaali). He then went on to chant a Krishna Mantra (Twadiyam Vastu Govindam…) and Shiva Stuti (Karpooragaraum…). Rules for chanting mantras, the order of chanting them were utterly disregarded. And most Devtas in the assembly remained unworshipped. The purist in me considers it sacrilege.
There is a ground rule in Sanatan Dharma. You don’t start chanting mantras without Praan Pratishtha. Without Praan Pratishtha, the idol is lifeless. Praan Pratishtha infuses divinity into the idols. A Sadhak also needs to invoke Ganpati and Gauri before beginning the rituals.
All basic rules of Sanatan Dharma (Snaan, Abhishek, Pushpa, Dhoop, Deep, Naivedya) lay forgotten as the Pundit quickly transformed into the role of Katha Vachak after a hurried Pooja. He randomly quoted Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat. I clearly remember that he said “Ved Vyas is the Guru of Shri Krishna”.
Thankfully the Katha session ended soon, and the Pundit did a Maha Aarti as the thankful crowd around him closed their eyes and folded their hands in devotion. Dharmic people generously placed currency notes in the Arti ki thaali and the religious program ended with Prasad distribution and blowing of Shankh. The Pooja part was over, the Jagrata part began.
It was insane. Bhajan Singers who sounded like Qawwals began singing Devi Bhajans in their nasal high-pitched voices. The songs had lines like “Khwahish kar de poori Maa, Tere Dar pe aaya hai Fariyaadi Maa”. After the live singing session, the tag team of Lakhbir Singh Lakkha and Narendra Chanchal began their relentless assault. Hit Bollywood numbers were turned into Devi Bhajans and were played in loop for 4 hours straight as people around gyrated with devotion. Huge JBL columns adding to the overflowing Ganga of Bhakti.
Devi Durga is a puranic goddess. She is considered the supreme goddess, the universal mother and the consolidation of powers of all the gods. Every part of her was created by the tej of the devas. Every Astra and Shastra she wields was gifted to her by the Devas. She represents the best of the Devas. It is for this very reason that we worship Devi Durga as Brahmani, Vaishnavi and Maheshwari (as she embodies the divine trinity). The reduction of a deity as powerful as Devi Durga as somebody whose worship can be trivialized and stuti Bollywoodized is shameful and absolutely repulsive. Delhi-NCR is the hub of Jagrata and the residents of this region have allowed this shameful assault in the name of Dharma to continue for far too long. Jagratas are a flourishing business now. Qawwals sing Devi Bhajans, godless music directors of Bollywood remix item songs into Devi Bhajans. I ran into the Pundit as he was chomping hungrily from an overfilled plate (Jagrata has buffet dinners too) and had a heated argument. He called me Vidharmi and I called him an ignorant fool. He was not ready to accept that Sandipani was the guru of Shri Krishna but the most hilarious part of the argument was that plastic idols have been approved by Vedas. Yes he actually said that!