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Colourful festival of polytheism in India

India is celebrating Navratri or Durga puja, one of the biggest Hindu religious festivals. The festival is dedicated to the goddess Durga. She is depicted with multiple arms , carrying various weapons and riding a ferocious lion or tiger. She is often pictured as battling or slaying Mahishasura, the demon.

Here is the story of Navratri and Durga puja in Hindu mythology.

When Mahishasura saw Durga , he fell in love with her and sought to marry her. The goddess promised to marry him, if he defeated her in the battle. A terrible combat ensued and continued for nine days. Finally, Durga assumed the terrifying form of Chandika and pinned Mahishasura down with her foot and pierced his neck with her spear and she cut his head off with her sword.

Popular Goddesses worshiped in Hinduism are Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, and Kali.


It is amazing to see Hindus worshiping goddesses. There are millions of goddesses. Does it mean Hinduism respect women? Hell, no. There are millions of sacred verses too that are anti-women. One verse says, ‘Na Stree Swatantram Arhati’, women do not deserve independence or freedom! Women are often victims of sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence, dowry system, dowry murder, bride burning, sex trafficking, sexual slavery, child marriage etc. No matter they are rich, middle class, poor, illiterate or literate, most people are religious, superstitious and many are terribly misogynists. The problems can not be solved by worshiping millions or billions of goddesses. We can get an equal society by educating boys and girls about women’s equal rights.

Comments

    • Corvus illustris says

      If the pair Ya’el and Sisera–or the name Judith–seem unfamiliar, please refer to the fundies’ favorite book of mythology s.v. Judges and Judith respectively. Bloodthirsty-women myths turn up in all cultures.

      • Enkidum says

        II think the emphasis is very different in Hinduism. I mean, Kali is a bloodthirsty female, to be sure, but that’s not portrayed as evil in the way it presumably would be in the Judeo-Christian traditions. (I’d appreciate correction on this if I’m wrong.) No one would worship Kali (or Durga) in a Christian church, but there are cults and festivals devoted to them in the Hindu world.

        Not that I’m applauding India for its progressive attitude towards woman (ha!), but the theologies are quite different in the kinds of sexism they endorse.

  1. Santosh says

    Ms. Nasreen,

    You are very right, there is this disconnect in what Hindus practice as a religion and what they do to their own women. Its true that we should inculcate in children from very early age to respect all humans equally for them to do so latter in their life. Many men witness how their mothers and sisters are treated in their house hold and latter on go on to emulate a similar attitude towards women. It is indeed sad to see how we humans treat one of our own this badly and let them suffer for their whole life.

    Santosh

  2. says

    A small correction to the myth…

    Mahisashura was born due to his dad (Rambha) having sex with a water buffalo (I… I don’t know why this happened. Apparently it was a princess who got turned into a water buffalo, but really that just sounds like Rambha didn’t want to go around being called Rambha the Water Buffalo Boinker)

    Mahisashura prayed and was granted a boon, that no man may kill him. He invaded the heavens and defeated Indra (Indra is like the Wolverine or Worf of Hinduism. Most baddies beat him up to demonstrate how badass they are since he is the King of Heaven and a Zeus Figure…)

    So they prayed to Parvathi, the wife of Shiva to help. She turned into Durga and Kerbstomped Mahisashura…

    There is another story though…

    Mahisasuhura the demon was a worshipper of Parvathi who scorned decided to teach the Devas a lesson. They had been corrupted by their power and their indolence was destroying the world as they got lazy and proud. So she granted the simplest of boons. That no man may defeat Mahisashura. So he did her bidding, casting down the Deva. When the Deva learnt their lesson they asked her to defeat him.

    In Hinduism there is a concept of Dharma and duty. That duty is more important than the self. Dharma means everything. You can be an atheist and go to heaven like Karna if your personal Dharma is good. You can EXCEED even the gods like Karna did. Mahisasuhra refused to abandon his duty even when he knew he was going to die. Mahisashura died but as he died was given a last boon because he refused to give up on the duty he accepted.

    He would always be worshipped alongside Durga. Durga’s title was Mahisashuramardini (The Slayer of Mahisashura) and he is always portrayed on statues being killed at her feet either as a buffalo or as a man.

    And that is the story of Durga… Well stories. I havent’ actually ever heard the marriage thing since everyone knows who Durga’s husband is…

    • Nepenthe says

      I’m stuck on the having sex with a water buffalo bit. That seems both dangerous and logistically challenging. Is there a step-ladder involved? I guess a deity can get around those pesky details.

    • says

      Yeah, I heard the version about Mahishasura being granted a boon of invulnerability to men as well. Only a woman could defeat him and stop him from oppressing the three worlds. I’ve never heard of Durga marrying Mahishasura. Or the whole water buffalo sex thing. Either my parents thought it was too weird for me to hear, or it wasn’t found in the variant of the story from our part of The Motherland.

      By the way, in my family (Tamil Hindu) the last day of Navaratri is Saraswati Puja. We celebrate Durga puja on the first day of Navaratri. I think North Indians do it the other way round.

      • says

        Sorry, our Navaratri goes like this:

        Day 1-3: Durga
        Day 4-6: Lakshmi
        Day 7-9: Saraswati (Day 8(?) is Saraswati Pooja)

        Something like that, anyway. I only go to the temple once every five years so I can’t keep track of these things.

  3. says

    There are so many stories, and so many versions of each story…

    It is sad that the goddess worship doesn’t translate into respect for women, but of course men in the West claim to “worship” women in a way, so long as they act right, and we all know that pedestals are just as confining as cages.

  4. briane says

    Your story reminds me of an article I read in a student union magazine 20 years ago. It argued that now that some people were worshipping godesses that things would somehow balance out. Gaia would mollify Yahweh.
    It seems to me that using shit to stem the flow of shit, just enlarges the latrine that needs to be dealt with. At least, it doesn’t reduce the amount of feculance to be cleaned up…

  5. Jockaira says

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a more horrible courtship, a date that descended into bloody warfare even before they started on the salad. Durga was obviously trying real hard to play “hard-to-get”. I wonder if Mahishasura was having any second thoughts about establishing a relationship while Durga was spearing his neck and slicing his vertebrae.

    Is this what they mean by “The Battle of the Sexes”?

  6. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    It argued that now that some people were worshipping godesses that things would somehow balance out.

    Centuries of catholics worshipping Mary should have taught them better.

    And yes, I know catholicism see itself as a monotheistic religion. But the difference between that menagerie of saints and minor hindu gods is merely in name. They share the exact same attributes.

    All religions will end up with contempt for women and disenfranchized, whatever specific founding myth they might have. Because of the emotions and wants they play upon, they are great instruments of control and power. And because by nature there is no way to verify what they declare from authority, it’s very easy to warp whatever does not please the ruling elite within its creed into a useful opression tool.

    The xianity I was raised in, for instance, valued humility, charity and frowned on those dedicated to the accumulation of riches (while the church skimmed an appreciable part of the resources of the community for obscure purposes).

    The prosperity gospel as preached in the US is completely alien to this world view – indeed, when I first heard of it I couldn’t really believe that this religion had anything in common with the one my parents practice. But it’s the very same god, with the very same book ! And nobody (except outsiders) raises an eyebrow.

    Both very different world views get extracted effortlessly from the same scripture. One manipulates the poor by portraying them as fortunate and deserving paradise in recompense for their continued humility. The other makes riches something the rich deserve by pleasing god, and the poor as deserving their lot. Both are similar as efficient instruments of opression. The contents of the scripture are irrelevant, and can be changed if too obviously contrary.

  7. kevinalexander says

    I saw all those arms and thought: Why have conservative Hindus not taken away the weapons and given her cooking and cleaning implements instead? If the misogynists don’t respect their own religion then why should anyone respect them or their religion?

  8. Prabhat says

    Now Mullahs on task to defame Hinduism….They Know how to twist the texts..like their master Zakir Naik do…Now question came who is Ideal Hindu Women..they answer you will get Rani Lakshmi Bai,Rani Durgawati…these are armour clad womens whose valour give bitter taste to Muslim Invaders…

    And Ms. Taslima just say Thanks to Hindus and India you are safe here..

    As Muslims often talk about refrences let me give you….

    Women are accorded the greatest respect in Vedas. Still, ignorant semi-literate communists/Muslims keep propagating the false propaganda that Vedas demean women. Presented here are verses from Vedas obtained from texts of most learned scholars in this field to establish the truth.
    Atharva Ved
    Atharva 11.5.18
    In this mantra of Brahmcharya Sukta, it is emphasized that girls too should train themselves as students and only then enter into married life. The Sukta specifically emphasizes that girls should receive the same level of training as boys.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 8
    Girls should train themselves to become complete scholars and youthful through Brahmcharya and then enter married life.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya, Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 413-414)
    Atharva 14.1.6
    Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for husband’s home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 8,9
    When girls ignore external objects and develops foresight and vibrant attitude through power of knowledge, she becomes provider of wealths of skies and earth. Then she should marry an eligible husband.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya, Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 654)
    Atharva 14.1.20
    Oh wife! Give us discourse of knowledge
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    The bride may please everyone at her husband’s home through her knowledge and noble qualities.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 660)
    Atharva 7.46.3
    Teach the husband ways of earning wealth
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    Protector of children, having definite knowledge, worth thousands of prayers and impressing all directions, O women, you accept prosperity. O wife of desrving husband, teach your husband to enhance wealth.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 804)
    Similar meaning
    (Book: Atharvaved ka subodh bhashya (7-10 chapters), Author: Sripad Damodar Satvalekar, Page 97)
    Atharva 7.47.1
    Oh woman! You are the keeper of knowledge of all types of actions (karma).
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    O woman, you provide us wealth and prosperity.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 804)
    Similar meaning:
    (Book: Atharvaved ka subodh bhashya (7-10 chapters), Author: Sripad Damodar Satvalekar, Page 98)
    Atharva 7.47.2
    Oh woman! You know everything. Please provide us strength of prosperity and wealth
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    O woman! You enhance our wealth and prosperity
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 805)
    Similar meaning:
    (Book: Atharvaved ka subodh bhashya (7-10 chapters), Author: Sripad Damodar Satvalekar, Page 98)
    Atharva 7.48.2
    Oh woman! Please provide us with wealth through your intellect
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    Scholarly, respectful, thoughtful, happy wife protects and enhances wealth and bring happiness in home.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 806)
    Similar meaning:
    (Book: Atharvaved ka subodh bhashya (7-10 chapters), Author: Sripad Damodar Satvalekar, Page 99)
    Atharva 14.1.64
    Oh woman! Utilize your vedic intellect in all directions of our home!
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    O bride! Reach the home of scholars and bring bliss and happiness by ruling your home
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 678)
    Atharva 2:36:5
    Oh bride! Step into the boat of prosperity and take your husband beyond the ocean of worldy troubles into realms of success
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 12, 13
    O bride! Step into the indestructible boat of prosperity and take your husband to shores of success.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 219)
    Atharva 1.14.3
    Oh groom! This bride will protect your entire family
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 13
    O groom! This bride is protector of your entire family. May she dwell in your home for a period and sow seeds of intellect.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 80-81)
    Atharva 2.36.3
    May this bride become the queen of the house of her husband and enlighten all.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 13
    Similar meaning as above
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 1, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 218)
    Atharva 11.1.17
    These women are pure, sacred and yajniya (as respected as yajna); they provide us with subjects, animals and food
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 13
    These women are pure, sacred, worth being worship, worth being served, of great character, scholarly. They have given subjects, animals and happiness to the entire society.
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 352)
    Atharva 12.1.25
    Oh motherland! Give us that aura which is present in girls
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 13
    May we have the same aura and prosperity as in women!
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 480)
    Atharva 12.2.31
    Ensure that these women never weep out of sorrow. Keep them free from all diseases and give them ornaments and jewels to wear.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 13-14
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 507)
    Atharva 14.1.20
    Hey wife! Become the queen and manager of everyone in the family of your husband.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 14
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 660)
    Atharva 14.1.50
    Hey wife! I am holding your hand for prosperity
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 14
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 672)
    Atharva 14.1.61
    Hey bride! You shall bring bliss to all and direct our homes towards our purpose of living
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 14
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 677)
    Atharva 14.2.71
    Hey wife! I am knowledgeable and you are also knowledgeable. If I am Samved then you are Rigved.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 14
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 708)
    Atharva 14.2.74
    This bride is illuminating. She has conquered everyone’s hearts!
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 14
    May the bride be victorious and prosperous!
    Similar meaning
    (Atharvaveda-Hindi Bhashya Part 2, Author: Kshemkarandas Trivedi, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Delhi, Page 709)
    Atharva 7.38.4and 12.3.52
    Women should take part in the legislative chambers and put their views on forefront.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 23
    Rigved
    Rig 10.85.7
    Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for husband’s home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 9
    Rig 3.31.1
    The right is equal in the fathers property for both son and daughter
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 21
    Rig 10.159
    A women speaks after waking up in morning, “My destiny is as glorious as the rising sun. I am the flag of my home and society. I am also their head. I can give impressive discourses. My sons conquer enemies. My daughter illuminates the whole world. I myself am winner of enemies. My husband has infinite glory. I have made those sacrifices which make a king successful. I have also been successful. I have destroyed my enemies.”
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 24
    The sun has gone up; my prosperity and happiness also have mounted high. Quite sure, I have regained the love of my husband, triumphing over my rivals.
    I am the emblem, I am the head, I am supreme and now I dictate; my husband must conform to my will; rivals now I have none.
    My sons are destroyers of my enemies; my daughter is a queen; and I am victorious. My and my husband’s love has a wide reputation.
    O enlightened, I have offered that oblation which has been offered by the one, the most illustrious and thus I have become renowned and most powerful; I have freed myself from my rival damsels.
    I am free from rivals; I am now the destructress of rivals, victorious and triumphant; I have seized other’s glory as if it were the wealth of weaker dames, who do not endure long. I have gained victory over these my rivals, so that I have my imperial sway over this hero and his people.
    (Book: Rgveda Samhita, Vol XIII, Author: Swami Satya Prakash Saraswati & Satyakam Vidyalankar, Ved Pratishthana, New Delhi) Page 4697
    Appendix to above hymn (Page 4813) of same book:
    Saci is the Rsi as well as the devata of the hymn. Saci is the Queen-Empress of the State or the Queen on her own accounts in a democratic state (the lady-President, or the Lady-Prime Minister of the State). Her sons and daughters are also dedicated to the State.
    Rig ved 1.164.41
    One ved, two ved, or four ved along with ayurved, dhanurved, gandharved, aarthved etc in addition with education, kalp, grammar, nirukt, astrology, meters i.e the six vedaang should be attained by the clear-minded woman, which is equivalent to the crystal-clear water and spread this diversified knowledge among the people.
    (Book: Vagambhraniya, Author: Dr Priyamvada Vedbharti)
    O men and women! A scholarly woman who has practiced or teaches one, two or four Vedas or four Vedas and four upavedas, along with grammar, etymology etc and spreads knowledge to whole world and removes ignorance of people is source of happiness for entire world. A woman who studies and teaches all parts of Vedas brings progress to all human beings
    (Book: Rigveda Bhashyam, Part III, Author: Dayanand Saraswati,Vedic Yantralaya, Page 382,383)
    Rig ved 10.85.46
    Like wise in so many other mantras a woman has been presented to play an essential role in family and as wife. Similarly she has been given the lead stage in society works, in governmental organizations, and for ruling the nation is also mentioned inVedas.
    (Book: Vagambhraniya, Author: Dr Priyamvada Vedbharti)

    Rigevda contains several Suktas containing description of Usha as a God. This Usha is representation of an ideal woman. Please refer “Usha Devata” by Pt Sri Pad Damodar Satvalekar as part of “Simple Translation of Rigveda (Rigved ka subodh bhashya)”. Page 121 to 147 for summary of all such verses spread across entire Rigveda. In summary:
    Women should be brave (Page 122, 128)
    Women should be expert (Page 122)
    Women should earn fame (Page 123)
    Women should ride on chariots (Page 123)
    Women should be scholars (Page 123)
    Women should be prosperous and wealth (Page 125)
    Women should be intelligent and knowledgeable (Page 126)
    Women should be protector of family and society and get in army(Page 134, 136)
    Women should be illuminating (Page 137)
    Women should be provider of wealth, food and prosperity (Page 141- 146)
    Yajurved
    Yajur 20.9
    There are equal rights for men and women to get appointed as ruler.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Chapter 1: Women in Vedic Dharma, Page 24
    Yajur 31.11
    In this mantra the Brahman, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra are there in each human body. Brahmin from the head, king from the shoulders, vaishya from the thigh, and shudra by feet. The progeny of the shudra through his karma(actions) can grow to be a Brahman.
    (Book: Mera Dharma, Author: Priyavrat Vedavachaspati, Gurukul Kangri University)
    Yajur 16.44
    There should me a women army. Let the women be encouraged to participate in war.
    (Book: Vagambhraniya, Author: Dr Priyamvada Vedbharti)
    Yajur ved 10.26
    In this mantra it is enforced that the wife of ruler should give education of politics to the others. Likewise the king do justice for the people, the queen should also justify her role.

    • MC says

      Thanks prabhat. Taslima is obviously quote mining and you have clarified scripturally. Maybe we should kick her out of the country and then she will realise how respectful we would have been to her. But of course we will not and should not do that no matter what trash she talks about the people who areaareactually keeping her safe.

  9. jonny says

    oh wow, i have a bronze statue depicting this very scene, though she isnt riding the lion but merly has her foot on its back while she thrust her spear

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