The festival of Durga Puja is colored with devotional zeal, mythological legends, detailed rituals, extravagant pandals and magnificent tableaus of the divine Mother Goddess and her children. The ten-day festivities of Durga Puja provide one and all with a chance to spread festive cheer and wish their loved ones peace as well as prosperity. The nine different forms of the Goddess of Power, Durga or Shakti, as per the Hindu religion are worshipped during this time. The last six days of the festival, namely, Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dashami are celebrated with great pomp and show. The Durga Puja revelry is not limited to elaborate rituals, but extends to various cultural, music and dance performances given by armature as well as professional artists during this time. On the final day of Vijayadashmi, the devotees bid teary-eyed farewell to the Goddess and her children as it is believed that they leave for their heavenly abode. Their idols are submerged in the water amidst the resonating sound of dhak to symbolize their departure.
Origins of Goddess Shakti
As per the mythological legend that surrounds the origins of Goddess Durga, a demon named Mahishasura, after years of concentrated prayers and worship, was able to take a boon from Lord Brahma that no male human, deity or demon could kill him. Thus, thinking of himself as invincible, he became drunk with power, transformed into a mighty buffalo demon, and started reeking havoc on earth. He killed many innocent people, followed by setting his eyes on the heavens and destroying the God's as well. It was then that all the three principle deities Lord Vishnu, Lord Shankar and Lord Brahma, along with other deities, combined their energies and gave birth to Goddess Durga. Each of her ten hands represents the powers she has and with them, she vanquished the demon and came to be known as Mahishasura mardini.
Durga Puja Celebrations
The vibrant and jubilant festival of Durga Puja is celebrated as per the auspicious Hindu religious calendar, which usually coincides with time between the months September to November, as per the Gregorian calendar. The festival is celebrated on a grand and panoramic level in the Northern and Eastern states of India, which include West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Tripura. Apart from these places, states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala also celebrate the festival enthusiastically, especially the Bengali community living in these regions.
Although with great increase in the social and cultural revelry during the Durga Puja one may think that this is the basic essence of this festival, but one could not be further away from the truth. The real and core essence of the festival remain the religious values and teachings that have been passed down from one generation to another in the Hindu households and communities. Thus, Durga Puja remains a devotional celebration, which honors the divine Goddess Durga. The first four days of the ten-day long festival are designated for the ceremonies of Kalash Sthapana and Kalsh Pooja. The main rituals and prayer ceremonies start with the day of Mahalaya, when the goddess invoked in the idol.
On the last five days of the festival, devotees visit the puja pandals in large numbers and make offerings to the goddess in the form of 'Pushpanjali', Aarti and 'Bhog'. On each of these five days, different kinds of bhogs (sanctified food items) are offered along with special puja rituals. Usually, these rituals are performed by a priest in the community puja on behalf of the entire community. During the festivities, people visit their community pandals for observance of prayer rituals, music, dances, and food performances, but they also visit other pandals to pay respect to the goddess. In the diverse nation such as India, this festival binds together people of different regions with a sacred thread of devotion towards the Mother Goddess.
The festival of Durga Puja is filled with various multicolor and spectacular celebrations.