DURGA PUJA – Hindu festival Celebrated Annually

Durga Puja also referred to as Durgostava, is a Hindu festival that takes place annually. Traditionally, it takes place for ten days of the month of Ashwin (which falls under the September – October period of the Gregorian calendar), which is the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. Moreover, the festival is particularly popular in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, and Odisha.

DURGA PUJA
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History and significance of DURGA PUJA

The goddess has another name as ‘destroyer of the evil.’ The most recognized form of the goddess is that of the goddess with ten arms carrying lethal weapons as well as her vehicle – the lion.

The festival commemorates the victory of the goddess over a demon called Mahishasura. According to mythology, it was up to the goddess Durga who had been sent to protect the goods against the demon. Moreover, she began the battle against the demon on the seventh day known as Maha Saptami and slew him by the final day, Vijay Dashmi.

Celebration and practices

The festival lasts for ten days, out of which the last few are when the celebrations and worshipping begin. The first day is popular as Mahalaya and heralds the advent of the goddess from her mythological marital home in Kailash. On this day, people perform Tarpana by offering water and also food to their dead ancestors. Day two to five marks the remembrance of the goddess and her manifestations like Ajima, Navadurga, and mai.

The next significant day is the sixth day, which is popular as sashthi. The devotees welcome the goddess on this day and inaugurate the celebrations. This follows the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Day, which are popular as Saptami, Ashtami, and Navami, respectively. On these days, along with the goddess, goddess Lakshmi, Sarasvati, and gods, Ganesh and Karthikeya have revered. The celebration ends with the tenth day (Vijaya Dashmi) when amid large and loud processions, idols have carried to local rivers where they are immersed. This custom has considered symbolic of the departure of the deity to her home, the Himalayas.

Pandals

The festival has considered a social and public event in the eastern and north-eastern states of India with temporary pandals built at community squares, roadside shrines, and temples. The pandal houses sculptures of the goddess, which have made out of clay. This clay, or alluvial soil, has collected from different regions. The choice is a tradition wherein Durga, perceived as the creative energy and material, is also believed to be present everywhere. In some cultures, the custom is to include the soil from forbidden territories (territories inhabited by social outcasts). This clay has then mixed with straw, kneaded, and finally molded into a cast made from bamboo and hay. The structures have then fine-tuned to make the idol and then dressed in clothing and decorated or bejeweled.

Rituals of DURGA PUJA

Some of the prominent rituals (among many others) are:

  1. Bodhana: Done on the sixth day of the festival to welcome the goddess.
  2. Navapatrika snan; Done on the seventh day, it is the bathing of the navapatrika with holy water.
  3. Sandhi Puja: This puja involves offering 108 lotuses and lighting 108 lamps and is performed in the last 24 and the first 24 minutes of Ashtami and Navami, respectively.
  4. Homa and Bhog: On the ninth day of the festival, home (fire oblation) rituals and bhog have performed.
  5. Sindoor Khela: On the last day (tenth day), women smear sindoor or vermillion on the idols and also on each other. This ritual signifies the wishing of a blissful marital life for married women.

Alse read, Pongal.

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