National Geographic : 1971 Oct
attended technical school, but like most of the young men, he was now jobless. But they had been determined to make this a memorable puja for the neighborhood. They had sold subscriptions far and wide; with the money they had bought an image and, at considerable cost, rented a screen and projec tor to show a Durga film which the communi ty had yearned to see. As darkness fell, the film began. Durga appeared on a lion and moved jerkily toward the demon Asura; Durga vanished, then reap peared as Kali, the goddess of death. From the third eye in her forehead she shot forth a trident-shaped beam. It struck the demon and severed his head amid much blood. The film ended. In a few moments it began again. We watched it over and over. In time, the crowd grew restless. Mr. Das left now and then to confer with some of the young men. Finally, he rose. "I'm sorry, but we cannot go to the immersion tonight. The musicians and the lorry won't budge without their money, and we don't have it. The film took too much." As I left, the goddess Durga once again moved across the screen to destroy the demon of evil. I crossed back over the little bridge and KODACHROMES ( N.G.S . Makeshift armada returns pilgrims from marshy Sagar Island, where Ganges and sea meet (left). Each January half a million Hindus gather on the island to worship and bathe at the river's final temple. Seemingly oblivious to pain, an ascetic lies on a cactus bed (above) near Sagar's temple; his blanket catches pilgrims' offerings of coins and food. Other sadhus bury themselves neck deep in sand or pierce their tongues with spikes. Bhang, a narcotic derived from hemp, often blunts their suffering.