Durga Puja, the festival celebrated to pay homage to Goddess Durga, is one of the numerous festivals celebrated in India. What is unique about our festivals is how we all get together to celebrate them. Religion, caste or any other barrier have no role to play in festivities. Our festivals are a testimony to our being one despite all the diversity.
Also known as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, Durga Puja is celebrated in different parts of the country like Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Bihar and Jharkhand. However, it is usually associated with the Bengali community.
Durga Puja is an annual five-day celebration which pays homage to Maa Durga, signifying the victory of good over evil, the killing of the demon king Mahishasur. As per Hindu mythology, the goddess visits her earthly abode during this time to bless her devotees. It is also, in part, a harvest festival which celebrates the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.
The festival begins on the same day as Navratri, a nine-day festival celebrated in many parts of northern and western India. It also coincides with the festival of Dussehra.
Bengalis believe that puja is when the goddess comes to her parent’s house on earth with her children Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Several rites and rituals are performed during the five days of the puja.
When is Durga Puja Celebrated?
As per the Indian calendar, Durga Puja is celebrated in the month of Ashwin, which corresponds to the months of September- October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a ten-day festival, of which the last five are the most significant.
The first day of Durga Puja is Mahalaya which heralds the advent of the goddess. The celebrations begin on the sixth day, that is, Sasthi. During the following three days, Saptami, Ashtami and Navmi, the goddess, is worshipped in her various forms like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya.
Several rituals are associated with this festival, performed by the devotees with a lot of passion and fervour.
Every day while the priests perform the rituals associated with the worship, devotees pay their respects through Pushpanjali or Anjali, a floral offering. Anjali takes place on all three days of Saptami, Ashtami and Navami. The auspicious hour for Anjali, always in the morning, is announced beforehand. It is customary to fast until the devotees have offered the day’s Anjali.
People generally wear new clothes on all days.
Sandhi Puja is another ritual performed at the juncture when Ashtami ends, and Navami begins. It marks the moment when the goddess emerged to kill the demons. One hundred and eight lamps are lit, and the priest utters the mantras while the drummers break into a frenzied beat.
Another ritual which takes place on Navmi is the Dhunuchi naach. As part of this, clay pots are filled with burning charcoal which people take in their hands and dance to the beating of the dhaak.
End of Durga Puja Celebrations
Vijayadashmi, the tenth day, marks the end of the celebrations. The goddess is bid farewell before being taken out for immersion in the river.
One of the rituals is Sindur Khela, where married women offer vermillion and sweets to the goddess; after that, they smear each other with vermillion.
Amid chants, drumbeats, singing and dancing, the idols are carried in large processions to the local rivers for immersion.
This custom symbolises the departure of the deity from her parents’ home to that of her husband, Lord Shiva, who lives in the Himalayas.
Throughout the celebrations, people visit different Durga Puja pandals, which are beautifully decorated with the idols of the goddess prominently displayed.
Devotees throng the pandals wearing new clothes. The pandals have various stalls for food, jewellery, clothes and other things. The daytime is all about eating the bhog while in the evening the attraction is the arti. During evenings the pandals are a sight to behold, with people having a good time with friends and family. The women, with their beautiful sarees, add to the glamour.
Durga Puja 2022
This year the Durga Puja celebrations will begin on the 1st of October and continue until the 5th. After a gap of two years due to the pandemic, devotees are looking forward to the celebrations this year.
Happy Durga Puja!