Post 28, Sargana

Zaheeb Ajmal reports:

3 p.m.: I am at the Chandithan the oldest temple in Sargana. Outside the Chandithan, a mela (fair) to mark the ninth day of Dussehra (Navami) is on.

Credit: Zaheeb Ajmal

Credit: Zaheeb Ajmal

A canopy stretches over the temple backyard, under which items of female jewellery, such

as necklaces, bracelets and nose rings were being sold. Pradeep’s wife Shanti is here with

her daughter-in- law.

The open grounds outside the Chandithan, along the banks of the pond, are the site for the

Navami mela, the fair to mark the ninth day of Dussehra. Almost 60 motorcycles have been

parked along the mud path leading to the ground, and a row of stalls have been set up here

since the morning. Vendors at these stalls prepare and sell a variety of savoury snacks,

including samosas (pasties usually stuffed with mashed potatos and peas), chaat (a mix of

boiled chickpeas, diced boiled potatoes, yogurt and tamarind chutney, served with crisp

dough wafers) and gol gappas (a spherical hollow unleavened deep-fried bread made of

whole wheat flour, served with mint-flavoured water). Other vendors have also lined up their

carts of raw fruits and vegetables in the hope of increasing their sales at the fair: others retail

utensils and other items of use in the kitchen. Closer to the temple complex, vendors sell

clay idols of the goddess Durga. Right at the entrance, and occupying pride of place, were

the kiosks selling sweets: jalebis (spiral-shaped flour batter deep fried in boiling sugar

syrup), laddoos (sweet balls made of flour, minced dough and sugar), gaja (sweetened flour

cubes deep fried in oil), rasgulla (cottage cheese and semolina dumplings, cooked in light

sugar syrup) and barfi (square-shaped confectionary made of condensed milk and sugar)

among others. Stalls selling paan (betel leaves) are ubiquitous.

At least six hundred people are present at that moment, braving the untimely showers. It

appears that several thousands have attended the fair since the morning. Harish Rishi

wades through the crowd, looking out for potential trouble-makers: Harish is member of the

Gram Raksha Dal, a quasi-police force legally constituted by the Gram Panchayat.

Within the temple complex, but outside the actual temple building, approximately 70 adult

and kid-goats stand side by side, awaiting their turn at the sacrificial altar. Inside the

sanctum sanctorum of the temple, devotees offer routine prayers and gifts (including cash

donations) to the goddess Durga.

11 p.m.: I accompany our host Narendra Yadav to the Durga temple at Sargana. The Durga

temple is much more modest in comparison to the Chandithan, but it hosts a devotional

gathering (jagrata) this Navami night. About twenty people sit cross-legged on the floor,

while artistes render hymns invoking the power of the goddess Durga. My host tells me that

mostly members of the Kayasth and Rajput communities are here: in fact, he and I are the

only ones not from these communities to be here!