Durga Puja is a festival celebrated by the Hindus, particularly the Bengalis, Assamese, Odias and Biharis of India. This festival is extremely popular in the eastern and north-eastern parts of West Bengal. Durga Puja is mainly celebrated in the month of Ashvin, which is the time period between October and November if we speak in terms of the Gregorian calendar. The people who consider themselves to be Shakta Hindus mostly celebrate this auspicious festival. Durga Puja festival is the time when the whole of north-eastern India is decorated with lights and vibrancy all around.
The Myth behind Durga Puja
The reason why Hindus celebrate Durga Puja with much pomp and vigour is that it marks the end of the evil. It is believed that Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura, the evil demon and secured peace and joy in the entire world again. This myth has led to the Durga Puja celebrations for centuries. The last day of Durga Puja, that is the day when we finally bid farewell to the Goddess who supposedly stays on Earth along with her children four 4 days and leaves for Heaven on the fifth day, also coincides with Dusshera.
Dussehra is the festival which is celebrated by many Hindus due to the myth of Bhagwan Ram returning home after 14 years of exile along with Devi Sita and brother Lakshman, where Devi Sita was captured by the evil Raavan. The death of the evil, which is Raavan, tends to the celebration of Dusshera a figure of Ravana along with his 10 heads is burnt in front of people. This marks the abolition of evil from society.
About Durga Puja and Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga is one of the most worshipped Goddesses of Hinduism. She is the epitome of strength and bravery. It is believed that Goddess Durga along with her kids, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikeya head over to the Earth for staying at Goddess Durga’s father’s place on Earth. They come for a quick vacation of 4 days and celebrate Durga Puja with the people of Earth. These 4 days start when Goddess Durga arrives after winning the battle against the evil shape-shifter Mahishasura, who fights with Durga to turn Earth into hell. The battle and its preparations start from the time of Mahalaya.
Mahalaya is an integral part of Durga Puja. Durga Puja starts with the Mahalaya being heard by every Hindu, especially the Bengalis some days before Durga Puja. The Mahalaya is a story in the form of songs and narration which tells about how Durga the battle against Mahishasura. It also depicts how good always triumphs over evil. Every Bengali turns their radio on at 4 am to listen to the amazing tale which is known as Mahalaya. The songs and the narrative praise Maa Durga and her deeds. They also despise the evil Mahishasura. Thus, Mahalaya means Durga Puja’s start.
The Four Important Gods and Goddesses
As mentioned earlier, Durga Puja is not just about Goddess Durga and her deeds; it is also about her children. Goddess Durga brings her children on Earth along with her. Her children are worshipped for –
- Goddess Lakshmi – Goddess Lakshmi is the epitome of wealth and prosperity. She is worshipped so that a family does not ever run out of money or does not ever have to deal with poverty.
- Goddess Saraswati – Goddess Saraswati is the epitome of good knowledge and melodious music. She is worshipped by students who want to be more and more knowledgeable.
- Lord Ganesh – Lord Ganesha is worshipped before starting any auspicious thing. He is known to be the God who is worshipped before a good and fresh beginning.
- Lord Kartikeya – Lord Kartikeya is the God who provides us with strength before facing any war or battle. He is strong and should be worshipped before facing any evil.
Know about Durga Puja Completely
About Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva, the Hindu God is believed to be Maa Durga’s or better known as Goddess Parvati’s husband. He provides her with strength during the toughest times, that is, when she prepares herself to kill the evil Mahishasura. The ‘tri shool’ with which Goddess Durga kills Mahishasura is believed to be presented to her by Lord Shiva before she sets out to kill the shape-shifter. Lord Shiva’s picture is stuck in every ‘pandal’, just above Goddess Durga’s idol. He is believed to be watching his wife and children from Heaven during those 4 days.
Idols and Pandals
Durga Puja is celebrated all over Bengal with beauty. Every pandal or hall where the Goddess sits with her children is decorated wonderfully. In Bengal, there are healthy competitions as well, as to which pandal would look the best or serve its visitors in the best way possible. In Bangladesh as well, Durga Puja is celebrated with glory, as is the case in Bengal. Every pandal-hopper tries to visit all the pandals to relish the extravagance of Durga Puja in the 4 days that it is celebrated.
The idols are the most important parts of the Durga Puja celebrations. People from all over India gather around their nearest pandals to get a glimpse of the beautiful idols of Devi Durga and her four children standing with their ‘vaahans’ or the animals that they have with them. Goddess Lakshmi has Her owl, Goddess Saraswati has Her swan, Lord Ganesh has His rat and Lord Kartikeya has His peacock. However, Goddess Durga has her lion.
Traditional Puja and Modern Puja
Many pandals go with the traditional way of dressing the idol up with ‘benarasi saree’ and a lot of jewels, while some other pandals try the modern ways. Nonetheless, in both the ways, the idol looks flawless. The makers of the idol also have their methods while creating those lovely figures with utmost precision. Nonetheless, the idol of Goddess Durga always comes up with the evil Mahishasura and who is depicted as a dead person, totally slew with Maa Durga’s ‘tri school’.
In today’s times, themed pujas have taken the platform. Pandals are decorated according to certain themes which make the pandals look gorgeous. These themes make the pandals win awards as well. The themes are so creative and varied that it brings a new flavour to the already wonderful Durga Puja. The healthy competition that each pandal owner puts is commendable.
Durga Puja and the Youth
Over the past, Durga Puja celebrations have also changed according to the preference of the youth. With the advent of the virtual world, the youth have taken Durga Puja to a different level altogether. Durga Puja wallpapers have come up, which are posters but only in the virtual world, with beautiful quotes and pictures related to the Goddess or the festival of Durga Puja. These Durga Puja wallpapers can also be printed and stuck at homes to enrich the look of the house.
The Social Media and Durga Puja
Different types of Durga Puja related messages come up during the Durga Puja days to wish one another in the virtual world. Those messages are in the form of texts or pictures, with good quotes or lovely pictures, to wish some loved one in the most heartfelt way possible. Durga Puja SMS is quite popular where some good thoughts about Durga Puja are written in English or the native languages, mostly Bengali.
The Bengalis and Durga Puja
Durga Puja 2020: The Bengalis celebrate Durga Puja like no other community. From the rituals of the puja to ‘Sindoor Khela’, the joy is endless for them. Durga Puja starts from Mahalaya itself, but the actual rituals start from the day of Sashthi, that is the 6th day of the puja.
- On Maha-Sasthi, that is the 6th day and the start of the Puja, small offerings are made which resembles each incarnation of Durga herself.
- On Maha-Saptami, that is the 7th day, the right priest is selected and ‘aarti’, that is saying of detailed prayers along with candles and ‘diyas’ in hand.
- On Maha-Ashtami, that is the 8th day, early morning ‘Anjali’ is performed, which means more prayers and enchantments in the name of the Goddess. At night, Sandhi Puja is done. Some devotees sacrifice a goat or a buffalo. In some parts, no sacrificial event is conducted.
- On Maha-Nabami, that is the 9th day, the ritual of the oblation of fire is practised which is known as ‘homa’. Also, some prayers are offered to the Goddess during the entire day.
- On Maha-Dashami, the Goddess along with her children leaves Earth and travel to Heaven. The idols are immersed in water with a hope of seeing the Goddess again next year. Maha-Dashami is also known as Vijaya-Dashami, which is presented with ‘Sindoor-Khela’ by all the married females of the family who rub ‘sindoors’ on the faces of the other married women. This is done in a friendly manner and is a ritual which has been into practice since time immemorial.
After Vijaya-Dashami, life is back to normal for the Bengalis, with a hope that Durga Puja would be more fun the next time.
Gifts and Presents
Durga Puja shopping starts before a month. The people who celebrate Durga Puja festival gift clothes to their loved ones and family members. This is a tradition of every family that celebrates Durga Puja. Also, the people who have enough make sure they gift something or the other to the poor who have nothing. During Durga Puja, the rich and the poor unite. There is no barrier as such. Everybody tries to enjoy with the little that they have. And, the ones who have slightly more than needed, a gift to the poor so that they enjoy in complete peace and comfort. That is the essence of this festival.
People also send Durga Puja SMS to each other after receiving their gifts and as a ‘thank you’ for remembering them on this joyous occasion.
Durga Puja festival of Hindus is one of the most cherished festivals of all time. If you plan to visit the northern or northeastern parts of India during September or October, make sure you cherish Durga Puja with wonderment and immense fun.