Durga Pooja also referred to as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, is a yearly Hindu festival observed on the Indian subcontinent that honors and reveres the Hindu goddess Durga and commemorates Durga’s triumph over Mahishasur. It is very popular and widely observed in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, and Assam, as well as in the nation of Bangladesh.
The event is held during the month of Ashwin in the Indian calendar, which correlates to September–October in the Gregorian calendar. Durga Puja is really a ten-day celebration, with the last five days being the most important. The puja is done in both private and public settings, the latter of which includes a temporary stage with structural embellishments (known as pandals).
Additionally, scripture recitations, performing arts, partying, gift-giving, family visits, eating, and public processions are all part of the holiday. Durga puja is a significant celebration in Hinduism’s Shaktism tradition. Durga puja in Kolkata was included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage in December 2021.
Durga Puja is an auspicious five-day holiday that originated in the Indian subcontinent and pays respect to the goddess Maa Durga. It commemorates the goddess Durga’s triumph against demon ruler Mahishasur. According to Hindu mythology, the goddess pays a visit to her earthly residence around this period to bestow blessings on her worshippers.
Durga Puja is very important to the Bengali people. However, it is also widely observed in other states like Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Bihar, and Jharkhand with much fanfare. People begin preparations for the goddess’s arrival on Mahalaya, which was observed on October 6. Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra marks the conclusion of Durga Puja and the nine-day-long Navratri festivities. Vijay Dashami commemorates Goddess Durga’s victory over demon ruler Mahishasura. On the other side, Dussehra or Dasara commemorates Lord Rama’s triumph over Ravana.
Durga Puja will begin on Saturday, 1 October (Maha Shasthi) and conclude on Wednesday, 5 October this year. Durga Puja festivities begin in earnest on Maha Shashti, with the idol of Maa Durga being presented to guests at the pandal. On each pandal, drums called ‘Dhaak’ are beaten. Durga Puja requires worshippers to rise early in order to adore the goddess and perform other rites.
The Significance of Durga Puja
According to Hindu legend, Lord Brahma bestowed upon the demon Mahishasura the blessing of invincibility, which meant that no man or deity could slay him. After obtaining the blessing, Mahishasura assaulted the gods and chased them from heaven. To defeat the demon ruler, all the gods united in devotion to Adi Shakti. Maa Durga was formed by the holy light that emanated from all the gods during the puja.
Maa Durga and Mahishasura fought for 10 days. On the tenth day, Goddess Durga vanquished the demon ruler, and hence the day is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami, signifying the triumph of good over evil. On the last day, worshipers immerse Goddess Durga’s statue in the Ganges’ sacred water. It is referred to as Durga Visarjan. Prior to the immersion, believers parade through the streets, accompanied by drumming, singing, and dancing.
Regional Celebrations For Durga Puja
As is the case with other Hindu holidays, there is considerable variance in the devotional practices and rituals related to Durga puja across the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is adaptable and leaves the set of practices up to the person. Regionally distinct rites may be observed, with variances acknowledged across temples, pandals, and within households.
The celebration is most often connected with Bengali Hindus, a population known for its diversity and disparate rituals. There may be distinctions in practice between theme-based Pandal pujas, family pujas (with bonedi pujas for once aristocratic families), and neighborhood or apartment community pujas (known as barowari pujas).
Additionally, puja ceremonies might be Vedic, Puranic, Tantric, or a blend of these. Typically, Bengali Durga puja ceremonies include all three. Non-Bengali Durga puja rites are primarily Vedic (srauta) in character but integrate esoteric aspects, making the puja a synthesis of Vedic and Tantric customs.
Durga puja seems to have changed with time, becoming more ornate, sociable, and artistic. Previously, the event was a household puja, a tradition that is still widely practised today. However, it had evolved into a sarvajanin (public) celebration, in which communities pool their resources and labor to create pandals and illuminations and celebrate the occasion as a “mega-show to share.”
The roots of this variant are unknown, with some records indicating that in 1411 CE, a family in Kolkata revived similar celebrations. While another set of accounts indicates that in late 16th-century Bengal, a Bengali landowner called Kamsanarayan performed a mega-show puja. Yet, as shown by the discovery of 11th and 12th-century Durga pujas manual manuscripts such as Durgotsavaviveka, Durgotsava Prayoga, Vasantaviveka, and Kalaviveka, this Bengali celebration is likely much older.
The rituals linked with the Durga puja spread outside Bengal, for example, to Varanasi, a city that has traditionally benefited from sponsorship from Hindus from many areas of the Indian subcontinent, including Bengal. Durga puja is celebrated in a variety of ways and styles in modern India.
The family practicing Navratri puja must execute Kalash Sthapana, or the placement of the holy puja pot, on the first day of the puja. A piece of crimson fabric should be spread out. Emblazon it with a Maa Durga image. Spread some red dirt in front of the image and water it.
You must try these authentic bengali cuisines during the puja:
– Khichuri or Bhog
– Lucchi and Cholar Dal
– Muri Ghonto
– Aamer Chutney
Numerous ceremonies and rituals take place throughout the five days of the real Puja, which run from Sosthi (Navaratri’s sixth day) to Dashami (the tenth day, Vijayadashami or Dussehra).
It is observed to commemorate Goddess Durga’s triumph over the monster Mahishasur. After prolonged pleas to Lord Brahma, the demon obtained the benefit of never being beaten in combat. Following that, he established a reign of terror over the three realms of Heaven, Earth, and the Netherworlds.
Now that you know everything about Durga Puja, it’s time to get ready to celebrate this festival with a lot of pomp and love! For more blogs about popular Indian festivals, keep reading Seema!