Durga Puja Festival

Durga Puja ? The Victory of Good Over Evil

Jaya Jaya Hey Mahishasura Mardini Ramya Kapardini Shaila Sute

Meaning: Victory to thou, the vanquisher of Mahishasura, the One.. who has beautiful locks of hair and is the daughter of mountain.

Legend Behind Durga Puja

Mahisasura (mahisa means buffalo and asur means demon) was a powerful demon. He created havoc among all the three worlds (heaven, earth and netherworld). His ruthless killings were a result of the boon he acquired from Lord Shiva. No man, god or animal can kill him (because of his pride, he missed out woman!). Distressed by his devilish acts, Lord Vishnu organised a huge yajna to create a woman of immense gallantry. She would slain the devil and save the threefold world from his cruelty.

After a long ceremony a woman evolved with supreme energy and enrapturing beauty. All the Gods of heaven gifted their most powerful weapons and prepared Her for a maha-sangram (war). After a long ferocious battle with Mahisasura, the demon was finally slain by the Goddess. His belief that women are powerless was wiped out in way that it became an example for rest of the world.

Since then, Goddess Durga, the epitome of shakti(power) is symbolized as a ten handed, dauntless woman presiding over a roaring lion. The trident in the chest of the demon Mahisasur, symbolizes victory of good over evil.

The Preparations

Months before the grand celebration, craftsmen of Kumartuli get busy sculpturing the idols of Goddess Durga. It has been an old tradition that soil from the brothel is being used to build the idol of Goddess Durga. This soil is called punya maati and it, along with mud from River Ganges, cow dung and cow urine form the ingredients.

Goddess Durga is accompanied by Her lion, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Laxmi, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya and Mahisasura; along with their divine vehicles. People all over Kolkata contribute money (chanda) for the pandal, decoration and lighting. Various bonedi badi (aristocratic households) organize Puja in their homes, which are open for visitors for darshan.

Shopping During Durga Puja

Bengalis compulsorily buy new clothes and furniture during this time. This is the reason various exhibitions and stalls dot the lanes. Markets of Kolkata are heavily crowded with people from all walks of life. Everybody buys clothes as per their financial capacity. This shopping in itself is no less than an occasion.

The Celebration Begins

Popularly known as Sharadotsav, Durga Puja comes in the peak of Autumn, which is mostly October. As per legend, Lord Rama worshipped the Goddess to seek her blessings before his battle with demon Ravana. Since it was not her conventional worship season, the festival became popular as akal bodhan which means unconventional worship

Flagged off with Mahalaya (awakening of the goddess), the entire state livens up with the devotional chants of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. He narrates the story of the evolution of Goddess Durga and Her fierce battle with Mahishasura. The ghats of Ganga are flooded by people clad in white dhoti before dawn. They make offerings to their demised ancestors and the ritual is called Torpon’.

The puja begins in full fervour from Mahasasthi, the day before (panchami) is feast and fun time for everyone. All community pandals organise Ananda Mela (food fair), where ladies prepare various dishes and sell them to the visitors.

The main pomp and show begins from Mahasasthi, when the idols with faces covered are brought to the pandals. They are welcomed with beats of dhak (drum) and kashar ghanta (round brass plate). People gather at the pandal clad in new clothes during the evening to see the unveiling of idols.

Mahasaptami begins with pran prathishta (infusing life in the idol) customs. Soon after that Kola Bou is brought after a customary bathing and placed besides Lord Ganesha. Kola Bou is a tender banana plant wrapped in white saree, epitomized as Lord Ganesha’s wife.

The 8th day known as Mahashtami, is the day when the battle between Goddess Durga and Mahisasura came to an end and the demon was killed. People amass visit the pandals for offering puja and stay there till evening to see the Dhanuchi Naach. The day ends with Sandhi Puja thus marking the end of Mahasthami and beginning of Mahanabami.

The day of Mahanabami brings joy as well as sadness among people. Bengalis believe that during this time Goddess Durga comes to her parent’s house and goes back till next year. With religious ceremonies people prepare Her for her farewell next day.

On the Mahadashami day, preparations begin early in the morning for Ma Durga to return for Kailasa. Married women flock the pandals with sweets, sindoor (vermillion) and flowers in their plates. They feed the goddess with sweets, smear vermillion on her forehead and take her blessings. The tradition of Sindoor Khela follows as women put vermillion on each other’s face and celebrate their marital bliss. Thereafter the Goddess departs for her immersion to return after a span of one year.

A festival of victory, a festival of lights, the presence of Goddess Durga epitomizes the triumph of women over the Mahisasura of social evils. It is a denotation of their struggle for advancement.

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