President Mukherjee conducts Mahasaptami rituals at home village

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President Pranab Mukherjee rendered priestly duties on Sunday, donning the special puja robes, and performed customary Mahasaptami rituals for the Durga puja at his ancestral home in West Bengal's Birbhum district.

Acompanied by wife Shuvra, Mukherjee arrived at his ancestral residence in Mirati village from his sister's house in Kirnahar early in the morning to start the Puja celebrations.

The 'Nabapatrika snan-o-sthapan', which is the ritual to install the idol of the deity, was performed by Mukherjee's son Abhijit. Previously the custom was carried out by Mukherjee but this time he only walked up to the canal where the traditional 'Kola bou' (tender banana plant) was bathed early in the morning.

After the 'Pran Prathistha', or giving life to the deity, Mukherjee chanted hymns and did the Chandipath. The Chandipath was done inside an enclosure and camera persons were not allowed inside.

The Mahasaptami puja rituals concluded with an 'arati' which Mukherjee conducted wearing silk dhoti and a silken stole draped around his shoulders.

During the arati, he sought blessings for all. "I wish and pray to god to bless everybody," he said.

Villagers in large number gathered to see Mukherjee perform his maiden Durga puja after becoming the president of the country.

The rituals were conducted by Mukherjee amid elaborate security arrangements.

For years, the veteran leader has been conducting the Durga Puja rituals at Mukherjee Bhawan, and has steadfastly stuck to the routine by taking out time during the festival despite his busy schedule as in charge of various constitutional and political posts.

The president was later to meet students of his alma mater, Kirnahar Shib Chandra High School, at the nearby Kirnahar town. He would inaugurate a permanent exhibition "Pranab's School - School's Pranab" showcasing different phases of his life.

Mukherjee touched down in his native village, some 170 km from Kolkata, Saturday evening.

He will return to Kolkata Oct 23 evening before returning to Delhi.

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