Kolkata: Sending out a message of the Durga puja transcending religious barriers and promoting inter-faith harmony, a four-year old Muslim girl is set to be worshipped as Kumari - a custom of paying obeisance to a pre-pubertine girl as goddess - on Maha Ashtami at a household here on Sunday.
Fatima, daughter of a grocery store near Fatehpur Sikri in Agra Muhammad Tahir and a housewife Bushra Bibi, would be worshipped in the house of the Duttas of Baguiati in Kolkata's north east fringes.
Kamal Dutta, an engineer at Kamarhati municipality in the North 24 Parganas, and his wife Moushumi have been organising Durga puja since 2013.
"Since we started Durga puja, we have been performing Kumari puja also on Maha Ashtami every year. We first started with a Brahmin girl. But in subsequent years, we chose non-Brahmin girls, including a dalit, also as Kumari. This time, we thought of worshipping a Muslim girl,' Dutta told IANS.
Dutta said he broached the subject with Muhammad Ibrahim, a civil contractor with Kamarhati municipality and a personal friend.
"Ibrahim told me that his elder sister Bushra Bibi has four-year old daughter who would make a perfect Kumari. When he asked his elder sister, she readily agreed. And so here are we preparing for tomorrow (Sunday)," said Dutta.
Asked why they opted for a Muslim girl, Dutta said: "Nowhere is it written in the scriptures that a Kumari can't be a non-Brahmin. I can see the qualities of a Brahmin in a Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist or a Jain".
Dutta said he has not faced any opposition from his family or any one for the choice of a Muslim girl for the Kumari puja.
Ibrahim, on the other hand, said they felt honoured at Fatima been chosen as a Kumari.
"There are some strains between Hindus and Muslims in some areas of the country. But this development will give a message that members of the two communities want to live together in peace. We are eagerly looking forward to tomorrow (Sunday), he said.
Ibrahim said none in his community has spoken 'even one word' about their decision to involve Fatima as the main protagonist of a Hindu religious festival.
Kumari Puja celebrates the spirit of womanhood. After the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the Kumari, according to a priest.
Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 at the Belur Math to underline the importance of women.
Earlier, an ascetic is said to have performed Kumari puja by worshipping a Muslim girl in 1898 in Kashmir.