“Life is full of ups and downs. Some days may be difficult, but Maa Durga will give you the strength and courage to face them.”
Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) is located in eastern India along the Hoogly river and is often referred to as India’s cultural capital. This city has a distinct personality due to its grand colonial architecture, rich traditions, and beautiful music and art.As the birthplace of eminent artists such as Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray, among others, the people of this city have a special appreciation for both literature and cinema. Every year, the city also offers an unparalleled religious and cultural experience of Durga puja.
“Dugga Dugga” echoes the collective voice of all the ladies in the household as they make their way to the pandals for puja, wishing for a safe journey ahead in life. Long after Women appear to be one step ahead of men today, dressed in the most beautiful outfits and adorned with the heaviest of jewels and thickest of bangles with sindoor and bindis on their temples. After all, Durga Puja is the Devi’s day. Nothing but color and festivity flow through the lanes during Maa Durga’s nine-day stay in her basha (house) with her four children, before being reunited with her husband Shiva on the tenth day (also known as Vijayadashami).Is it, however, the end of the story? Durga puja’s massive grandeur and style are not limited to a nine-day festival. It lives in the hearts of devotees who utter “Maa Dugga” at even the most minor hiccups in life. The resounding ullu (a high-pitched ululation sound made by striking both cheeks with the tongue, believed to be very auspicious and said to ward off any evil) can be heard in the city streets long after the puja has ended.
Durga Puja, ten-day Hindu festival celebrated in the month of Ashvina (September–October), the seventh month of the Hindu calendar, particularly in Bengal, Assam, and other eastern Indian states.Durga Puja commemorates the goddess Durga’s victory over the demon king Mahishasura. It starts the same day as Navratri, a nine-night festival honouring the divine feminine.
The first day of Durga Puja is Mahalaya, which heralds the arrival of the goddess. On the sixth day, Sasthi, celebrations and worship begin. The goddess is worshipped in her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati over the next three days. The celebrations conclude with Vijaya Dashami (“Tenth Day of Victory”), when idols are carried in massive procession to local rivers and immersed amid loud chants and drumbeats.This custom represents the deity’s return to her home and husband, Shiva, in the Himalayas. Images of the goddess riding a lion and attacking the demon king Mahishasura can be found in a variety of pandals (ornately decorated bamboo structures and galleries) and temples.
This festival is celebrated and enjoyed by all people, regardless of caste or financial status. Durga Pooja is a hugely communal and theatrical event. Dance and cultural performances are essential components of the event. The festival also includes a lot of delicious traditional food. The streets of Kolkata are teeming with food stalls and shops where both locals and visitors can indulge in delectable treats such as sweets.To commemorate Durga Pooja, all workplaces, educational institutions, and commercial establishments in West Bengal are closed. Other than Kolkata, Durga Puja is observed in Patna, Guwahati, Mumbai, Jamshedpur, and Bhubaneswar.As a result, the festival teaches us that good always triumphs over evil and that we should always take the correct path.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DURGA PUJA
While the festivities encourage fasting and devotion for 10 days, the last four days of the festival, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Vijaya-Dashami, are celebrated with tremendous zeal and splendor throughout India, particularly in Bengal and abroad. Durga Pooja festivities vary according to location, customs, and beliefs. Things vary to the point that the event is held for five days in one location, seven days in another, and 10 days in all. Joviality begins on the sixth day, ‘Shashti,’ and concludes on the tenth day, “Vijaya-Dashami.”
RITUALS DONE DURING DURGA PUJA
The celebrations begin with Mahalaya, when followers ask Goddess Durga to visit the earth. On this day, they create the eyes on the Goddess’s statue during an auspicious ritual known as Chokkhu Daan. On Saptami, people undertake rituals to raise Goddess Durga’s auspicious presence inside the idols after erecting her idol. These rites are known as ‘Pran Pratisthan.’ It consists of a tiny banana plant known as a Kola Bou (banana bride), which is bathed in a local river or lake, dressed in a sari, and utilized to transport the Goddess’s sacred spirit.
During the festival, worshippers pray to the Goddess and adore her in a variety of manners. On the eighth day, after the evening Aarti ceremony, it is customary to conduct a devotional folk dance in front of the Goddess in order to appease her. This dance is performed to the rhythms of drums while holding a clay pot filled with burning coconut and camphor. The devotion is finished on the ninth day with a Maha Aarti. It represents the conclusion of the primary rites and prayers. On the last day of the celebration, Goddess Durga returns to her husband’s residence, and the goddess Durga’s statues are immersed in the river. The wedded ladies make an offering to the Goddess and brand themselves with crimson vermillion powder.
BY- NAMRATA AHUJA