DURGA PUJA  

by Swapna Mazumdar

Ma Durga of Ekdalia Evergreen 2004Durga Puja is a grand festival of joy and gaiety…a festival of ceremonies, rituals, and prayers. It brings people together irrespective of different social and economic background and finds an echo of unity and friendship all around the globe.

The festival has spiritual and social dimensions which fosters compassion, friendship, peace and harmony and inspire each one of us to work for the progress and betterment of society and uplifting humanity in the pursuit of excellence.

Once a year, in the autumnal month of Ashwin, Goddess Durga comes home to her parents, together with her four children, Ganesh, Laxmi, Karttik and Saraswati, and enjoys all the love and attention lavished on her. Unfortunately, this visit lasts only three days, and on the fourth day she starts on her journey back to her husband's abode in the mountain kingdom of Kailash.Durga - Goddess of deliverance - comes to earth on the seventh day after the autumn new moon. She is depicted by the 'kumors' or potters as a resplendent golden figure standing on a lion's back, each of her ten arms bearing a particular weapon, as she triumphs over the demon Mahisasura.  

This is a very special festival when everybody buys new clothes and outfits and exchange presents that helps to set new trends in the fashion world in all its endless verities. It generates tremendous impetus for the trade and commerce to grow and flourish along with the advent of the new designs, in Saris, clothing and jewelleries. The event inspires writers and poets to flood the market with their new publications for enlightened the readers. Music, Arts and Crafts also find new expressions to enrich civilisation and community. Family, holidays, visiting places of interest and pilgrimage are very popular pastimes during this season.  

Singhi Park 2004 - Dhaki's during Arati

BACKGROUND

According to Gita -The Holy book of the Hindus – whenever evil rears its ugly head, the Almighty comes to rescue of humanity to establish victory of truth over untruth, and good over evil. Durga Puja symbolises the eternal struggle between good and evil. Goddess Devi Durga is a mother figure and reflects all aspects of our daily life. She dwells in us all in the form of Divine Mother and guides us in our imperfections to increase self awareness to control evil tendencies to restore peace and harmony in life.  

MYTHOLOGY & LEGEND

Legend has it that,  thousands of years ago a long drawn battle was fought between the gods and the demons in which the Demon King (Mahisasura) emerged victorious. The Demons then unleashed a reign of terror on earth with its wanton and senseless atrocities, violence and destruction. This divine celestial form was bestowed with the most powerful weapons.

Thus the concept of Shakti – the conglomeration of all the celestial powers. And it is this form that Goddess is propitiated to the incarnation of  

“Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Shaktiirupena Sansthita

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha”.  

The Goddess is worshipped along with other Gods. She holds special weapons in her hand.  

Lake Palli's Pratima 2004 build with hand fans

SYMBOLISM & SIGNIFICANCE

Maa Durga( the goddess Durga) is the supreme goddess as she embodies the immeasurable power of the universe and is a representation of female dynamism and creative energy. The goddess Durga with ten hands carrying weapons, sitting on a lion or a tiger and assuming mudras (symbolic hand gestures) plays a conventional male role.But dressed in imperial red saree and adorned with gold ornaments, maa looks stunningly beautiful. Durga Puja Traditions reflect the essence of joy, gaiety, fun but also the celebration of the victory of good over evil.  

According to tradition, the images of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartick and Ganesh are also separately worshipped along with that of Durga. The image of Durga is framed at the centre, and the background behind the whole group is called the chaal-chitra. It is a circular canvas of mat containing paintings of heavenly scenes and drawings of other important gods and goddesses.   

Ganesh – popularly known as the elephant headed deity with tusks – is the harbinger of good omen and success. A mouse is his vechile and he is held in high esteem by all that aspire for success, achievement, recognition, social status and excellence in life. He is known as “Siddhidata Ganesh”.  

Kartik – A handsome young look with magnificiant bearing riding a peacock and saddled with the bow and arrow symbolises valour, courage and steadfast approach. He also stands for heroism and devotion.  

Saraswati – A very graceful deity with great charm and beauty is seated on a lotus and a swan is her vechicle and she holds a stringed instrument and is worshipped as the goddess of learning. The students and devotees of learning in any field always seek her blessings to excel their pursuits. All educational institution and seats of learning celebrate special puja to receive her blessings in spring. Presently Saraswati and Lakshmi seem to have joined forces to bless the aspirants in their efforts to achieve success and fortune. The saying goes – if one has the blessings of Saraswati, Lakshmi automatically seems to follow in its trail.  

HIGHLIGHTS OF CELEBRATION

The main puja starts from Shasthi, which is the sixth day after the new moon. On Saptami, the image of the goddess is infused with life through a process called Bodhon. Early in the morning, the pran of the Devi is put inside the image after it is brought from a nearby river through the medium of a banana plant, called the Kola Bou. The Kola Bou, bathed and draped in a new yellow saree, resembles a newly wed bride. Ashtami is universally accepted as the culminating point of the four day celebrations. The chanting of Mantras, the beating of the drums, Kashi and ghanta, the sound of conchsells and the smell of incense sends a distictive vibration right through the heart of the people.

It was on this day that Durga had killed Mahishasura. The ritual of Sandhipuja marks Sandhikkhan, the juncture between Ashtami and Nabami. The main attraction of Nabami is the Maha-Arati held in the evening. On Dashami, the image is immersed in a river, and people bid a sorrowful farewell to the Mother Goddess, and the wait begins for yet another year.

 
Bijoya is a special ritual whereby peace and good relations are reaffirmed. Families exchange sweets and people embrace each other, vowing brotherhood. Bijoya continues till the next new moon, when Kali Puja is held.
 

DURGA PUJA IN THE  MODERN WORLD  

In Sanskrit Durga means " She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach ." Goddess Durga is a form of Shakti worshipped for her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. Mother of the Universe, she represents the infinite power of the universe and is a symbol of a female dynamism.

Durga, a beautiful warrior seated upon a tiger, was the first appearance of the great goddess. Also called by many other names, such as Parvati, Ambika, and Kali. Destroyer of demons, she is worshipped during Durga puja, most popular among Bengalis  

In a communal worship of the Goddess or Sarbojanin Durga Puja, we see a large number of people participating together to raise funds and establish the Durga Idol and the auspicious mandap. The word Sarbojanin has tremendous power to pull the hearts of every Bengali and unite them under the umbrella of Durga Puja. So much so that this word has been adopted as the name by several Durga Puja committees. Every town and every city has atleast one Sarbojanin Durga Puja. 

2004 College Square Pondol

Living up to the name, every Sarbojanin Durga Puja calls for equal and unanimous participation of people. Several games, quizzes and cultural programs are held for the entertainment of people. In this fast paced world, one has no time to rejuvenate their selves and meet the loved ones. Sarbojanin Durga pujas are a fabulous platform to reconnect with dear ones and enjoy the blessings of Maa Durga under one roof.

Apart from cultural programs, Bhog (prasad or food containing Devi Durga’s blessings) is another factor with unites all the people and makes everyone smile with joy. Bhog is given to all the devotees of Maa Durga irrespective of caste, creed and race. While sitting down to eat the traditional Khidchi, made of rice, and Ghant, mixed vegetables, every human gleams with joy for it is the Bhog of Devi, who never creates disparities amongst her children.Durga Puja is a tremendous platform for people to come together and celebrate in harmony
 

The communal worship of the goddess  the most-coveted festival in the year, has transcended geographical boundaries and reached every son and daughter of the soil across the globe from New York to New Castle on Tyne and from Tokyo to Toronto !! The four-day fair - with its splendour and mesmerising look - is too beautiful to be a called a mere festival. It has become an indispensable part of every one's life...


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