|L-R: Lord Ganesha, Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Durga on her carries Lion slaying demon Mahishasura, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Karthikeya.|
Durga Puja (worship of Goddess Durga) is one of the biggest hindu festivals in India most dearly celebrated for 4 whole days extensively by the folks from Assam, Bengal, Tripura, Odissa, Manipur, Jharkhand and Bihar to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura, symbolising the victory of good over evil. Durga puja is especially the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali Hindu society. Not only in India, Sharadotsav, as it is also called, is widely celebrated in other South East Asian countries and also all across the globe by other fellow hindus. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar.
Goddess Durga is believed to be the hindu goddess of power. Her carrier is a tiger or a lion depending on which version of the story is being told. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the day Goddess Durga defeated the evil Demon Mahishasura and slayed him, who had unleashed a reign of terror upon both heaven and Earth.
According to hindu mythology, Mahishasura, a demon God was too powerful to be defeated by any God and had succesfully banished all the Gods from Heaven. Helpless, they had taken their plea to the higher Gods, the trideva (three supreme Gods). It was then that Goddess Durga was created from the devine light emitted by Lord Vishnu combined with lights from all the Gods. She was gifted with all the celestial weapons of the other Gods and thus was more powerful than any of them. A fierce battle ensued and Mahishasura attacked transforming into a mighty water Buffalo. But Goddess Durga ultimately killed him with a trident.
Okay, I know that can get really confusing... Well, in the end, just remember the relation
Coming back to the festival itself, it is a very elaborate festival with preparations already starting way before autumn.The day of Durga's victory is celebrated as Vijayadashami (Bihar, Bengali), Dashain (Nepali) or Dussehra (Hindi) which literally translates to "the Victory on the Tenth day".
The actual period of the worship however may be on the preceding nine days called Navaratri followed byVijayadashami in North India or five days in Bengal from the sixth to the tenth day. This year it was celebrated from 30th September till 3rd of October. Traditionally, nine different aspects of Goddess Durga known as Navadurga are meditated upon, one by one during the each of the nine days of the festival. Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, One of the trideva and Durga's consort, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya, who are considered to be Durga's children.Nine types of plant are also worshipped which includes a plantain plant, representing nine divine forms of Goddess Durga. In Andhra Pradesh (and other few parts of South India) Dussera Navaratri is celebrated in a slighltly different way, where the Goddess is dressed differently each day as 9 different devis such as Saraswati, Parvati, Lakshmi etc. for all nine days.
Devotees do puja and attend rituals. 100s of pandals are put up for people to visit and pay their respect. People celebrate the festival from weeks before by going on a massive shopping spree (yup! A major excuse), indulging in sweeties gallore, visiting from one pandal to another all throughout the week and in all, having a gala time. Kudos to the folks who religiously dedicate all their time and skills in putting up impeccable display of devotion and artistic talent. Simply marvelous...
Here are some of the most beautiful pandals during Durga Puja 2014 from the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, alone:
Truly amazing. One of the few things I really miss about my country are the little traditions and social gestures people thoroughly enjoy and so religiously follow each year in the name of festivals. Bless them all...
On the last note, as told by my best friend:
"This is the most awaited time of the year for Bengalis all over the world. Putting up a few pics from this year's pandal hopping and puja darshan with my parents. I am a bit sad that the celebrations are already over. But the wait for the next year has already started :) May Maa Durga bless us all with courage, love & peace :)" - Sreeparna