Why do we celebrate Durga Puja?
Maa Durga represents the embodiment of Shakti that is the divine feminine force governing all the cosmic creation, change, and existence. It is said that Durga emerged from the energies being collective of all the gods, including Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva so that she could kill and vanish the demon Mahishasura who was not going to get defeated by any man or god. That is the reason behind her being known as the saviour of the gods and universe. She exists in the complete state of independence form and self-sufficient from the universe. With that, she is also known as the mother of Kartikeya and Ganesh and that’s why can be seen fighting the demon in Shiva’s wife’s form – Parvati.
During the annual Navratri festival, beginning in September or October, Durga is honoured with great fervour. It is the festival in which the nine days are dedicated to nine different avatars of Maa Durga. In West Bengal, this festival starts on the day sixth and ends on the tenth day of Navratri. The tenth day is celebrated as the victory of Durga over the demon. In West Bengal, it is called Vijayadashmi and in north India, it is called Dussehra. Dussehra also commemorates the victory of God Ram over Ravan.
Durga Puja is celebrated as the annual visit of Durga Maa, her children to the home and Durga’s reunion with Shiva on the tenth day. The last six days of Navratri are known as Durga Puja or Durgotsava. This is the largest festival of the year for all the Bengali Hindus. There are highly decorated life-sized idols of Durga. The idols are worshipped for those five days and on the last day, they are immersed in a local river or some water stream showing the reunion of Durga with Shiva. In these days, devotees show their faith and are pure by avoiding meat, wines and other things. After the last day, it is believed a good time to start new business ventures.
Months before the starting of Durga Puja, the community members organize a team for donations, engage priests and different artisans buy materials and help make a pandal. The Durga statues that are made are designed from clay and colours by different artisans.
The growth of the competition in the theme-based pandals escalates costs and scale of Durga Puja in the eastern part of India. The competition can be in many forms like the height of the statue. There is this news that in 2015, 88 foot high Durga statue attracted a lot of devotees with an estimated visitors of one million.
The worshipping practices can differ and rituals related to the puja too. Hinduism is a religion that accepts flexibility and that is the reason that every festival has its variations of worship practices and rituals associated with them. The festival of Durga Puja is mostly associated with Bengali Hindus and there is even community that grants freedom of variations and accepts differences. Some poojas are simple whereas some are flamboyant.
The Puranic style of puja varies from the Vedic style and nature and so the Tantric one differs from both in nature and style. And sometimes, it can even be the combination of all the three. Mostly, the Durga Puja that non-Bengalis do is in Vedic nature and style where the Vedic hymns and melodies are sung.
This year, Durga Puja is starting on 26 September 2020 and will have its last day on 30 September 2020. Just like in other previous years, this time again, it is going to be an enormous and enjoyable festival as it is the most famously celebrated festival in West Bengal.