Table of contents for Durga Puja
- Durga Puja – The biggest festival in our life – Part – I
“Aar matra 365 din baki”.
It’s only 365 days for the next Pujo, we always exclaimed on the day of Bijoya Dashami. By saying this, I think I expressed everything about how we feel about Durga Puja, the biggest festival in our life. There is a saying in Bengali that “Bangalir baro mashe (in 12 months) tero (thirteen) parbon (festival)”, which literally means that there are thirteen festivals in 12 months in a Bengali calendar. However, I don’t think we have 13 festivals, we may have many more than that figure in a year…why do we need any special day for the festival! Jokes apart, we may have end number of festivals in a year but our life revolves around Durga Puja.
When the sky color change from Blue to Red, when there is Kash ful in the field and the fragrance of Shiuli in the air, your wait is over – it is time to welcome ‘Ma Durga’
“Eseche sarat himer paras legeche hawar pare, sakal belay ghaser dagay shishirer choya lage” – Rabindra Nath Tagore.
“Autumn (Sarat) is here, just feel the cool breeze and presence of morning dews on the top of grass”.
* Picture (morning dews) courtesy: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=999225
Once monsoon is over, it is time for the autumn to take over. We fall in love with sun and the blue sky with white feathery clouds, tinny piece of clouds try to finds its own way through the blue sky, playing hide-and-seek with sun and moon…it drizzles sometimes. There will be kash phool in the field and…the fragrance of Shiuli (Night-flowering Jasmine. Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is a species of Nyctanthes)…and you know that wait is over…you can actually smell it in your breath…surely I can…Durga Puja is almost here.
When there is a change of sky colour from blue to red just before dusk during Autumn, we used to listen from our elders that it is because Durgama (read Dugga-ma) is coming…on her way she is fighting with all the evils, hence the sky became red (blood of the evils)…and you shouldn’t do anything wrong, otherwise Durgama will not come to you. It’s their style of way to control us and believe me, it really works. If ‘Durgama’ doesn’t come just because of our mischievous acts, the entire world around us would be meaningless…so, we were very cautious in all our activities…the same tradition still continues at my home and you will have to see to believe…
“If I don’t do this, Durgama will love me and give me all what I want”, my child asked me the other day…it’s very easy for us to keep him quiet these days, when things are going out of our control and he has a long wish list to fulfill from Durgama.
The making of Idols
On the auspicious day of Janmastami, the artisans of Kumartuli and all other parts of Bengal use the mud of the river Ganges to sculpt the idols of Maa Durga for the first time. However, to meet today’s demand & supply chain management, this traditional way of making the idols only exist in some places. The artisans work day and night to make the idols, as well as to bring life in it. Maa would then descend upon numerous pandals all over the country. The idols even exported around the globe in every year through sea, three to four months before the Puja.
The story of Mahishasuramardini Durgatinashini Durga
Durgapuja specifically celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the king of Asuras, Mahishasura, who after years of austerities once granted a boon by Lord Brahma that no man or deity would be able to kill him. The urge to rule the world with this immense power, he started terrorizing eveyone including the Gods in Heaven, who were scared and requested the Great Trinity of the Universe (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar) to save them. By hearing this, they became very angry and with their combined divine energy, summoned up a feminine form which illuminates the heavens and Devi Durga, a beautiful woman with ten arms riding a lion, emerged from the glow. She was immediately armed by the gods and sent forth against Mahishasura. Finally when Mahishasura in the guise of a buffalo charged against Durga, the Devi beheaded the buffalo and from it emerge Mahishasura in his original form. Durga pierced his chest with the trident and relieved the world from the evil power. That is why she is ‘Mahishasuramardini Durgatinashini Durga’, who destroys the evil, protects us and brings peace and prosperity on earth. Over the years, she became a part of our family, a daughter to all parents and visits our home once in a year.
There are several variations of the tradition all over India. Navratri is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
According to Ramayana, when Rama was engaged in the fierce battle with Ravana who abducted his wife Sita, he wanted to secure the blessings of victory from Devi Durga. He held the puja to evoke the goddess during autumn to his dire plight, thereby worshiping Durga untimely (in Akal). Hence this puja is also called Akalbodhon.
The Goddess asked for 100 Neelkamals (known as Blue Lotuses) as a token of his devotion to Her. Rama traveled far and wide in pursuit of collecting 100 neelkamals, however, he managed to find 99 only. Rama offered one of his eyes which is said to have resembled a Blue Lotus. The Goddess pleased by the devotion to Her, blessed him in his battle against the King of Lanka. After a long battle which started on Saptami, Ravana was killed during Sandhikshan, the transition period of Ashtami and Navami. He was cremated on the following day of Dashami. The day is being celebrated as a festival namely Dusshera all over the country.
Puja is a religious festival. Durga Puja is observed in the honor of Devi Durga, to celebrate her victory over evil. However, I will surely choose to differ. Durga Puja is not only a religious festival anymore. But it is about much more than just worship. We embrace her in our hearts and make her an inseparable member of our family. Every year during the season of Sharat or Autumn, every parents look forward to receive their daughter(s) and children at home just like Uma/Parvati comes to her parents’ home for her annual visits, along with her four children Ganesh, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kartik, who represent Wisdom, Knowledge, Prosperity and Beauty respectively.
The purpose of this post is not to let you all know about our festivals, cultures only. The objective of this write up is if each of us can bring one such story, this will be immensely beneficial to all of us. You can even plan to be a part of the celebration. Aren’t we plan to see the carnivals of other countries e.g. Carnivals in Brazil or Tomato Festivals in Spain? So, you can plan to spend few days to witness the biggest festival in our life…and mix yourselves with the waves of crowds – it doesn’t matter who you are or where are you from…whether you are an atheists or a firm believer of GOD…surely you will be lost but you will also feel to be at home always…you will be amazed to see the spirit of the people and also be amazed to learn that Durga Puja is being celebrated across religion and everyone is willing to be an active participant in this mega event. I have many friends from all the religions who also feel the same like me…even if they are staying in Bengal or moved to a different location for a living…we also wait for almost a year to meet everyone in the family and spend some time together, along with welcoming Ma Durga in our home. I, myself, would like to witness Rath Yatra at Puri at least once in life, as well as other places to celebrate other festivals of our country, whenever I can manage some time.
All festivals bring people closer to each other, be it family, friends or community. Festivals provide the perfect opportunity to connect with all of them. The festival of Durga Puja is celebrated as a coming together of the families. It’s also time to go back home for most of us, who stays outside.
The wait for this year is about to end…it is only eleven days from today, Durga Puja will start on the 20thof October 2012.
So, through this series, I would like to take you through a virtual tour of Ma Durga, the celebration, the joy and happiness, the famous ‘adda’, the food, particularly everything related to Puja, which are synonymous with this festival. I am sure by the end of this series some of you will definitely take some extra initiatives to let us know about your festivals, culture and we all will be more than happy to know about the same.