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”.

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.

Kashful

Shiuli

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…

Sky during autumn

“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 making of Idols

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.

Ma Durga

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.

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.

Lotus in the pond

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.

Waiting in the station

Reaching home

Reaching home

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.

19 Comments

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks for this enticing curtain raiser for the forthcoming Durga puja festivities, Amitava. Durga Puja is one of India’s most spectacular and beautiful ways of celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is a celebration of life too, of brotherhood, of optimism in the future. If it is Durga Puja, then the place to be in is Kolkata.

    At another level, it is an inculcation of spiritual, cultural and moral values to the youth. By worshipping Divinity in female form, respect for women is taught in a subliminal manner. This could probably be the reason why Bengal fares far better than the rest of India where despicable crimes against women are on the rise.

    Looking forward in participating in this years festivities vicariously through your posts.

    • Hi DL, Thank you so much.
      You are absolutely right, I couldn’t find words and always short of words while replying to you.
      Hope you enjoyed this post and it will be my pleasure if you this series/initiatives of mine.
      Have a great day…

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Hi Amitava,

    Thanks for sharing this article. It just reminded me the time I spent at kolkata.2002-2004 I stayed at Kolkata. And during Durga puja time , all local use to get leaves except us who were non localite. I always use to regret that thing. But still I didn’t missed the pooja. I use to go to office from 0900 – 1900 and from 2000 hrs to 0100 hrs we used to visit all the pandals…Its the time when no one sleeps at Kolkata and you can enjoy the city and Durga Pooja…Best wishes for Durga Pooja…ENJOY!!!!!!!!

    • Hi Abhee, Tx a lot for your wishes.

      So, you too have stayed in Kolkata…then what shall I tell you. You must have enjoyed a lot, as mentioned by you. Yes, the city never sleeps during those few days…we used to visit Pandals throughout night and return home only in the morning…no restrictions at all during all those few days…wishing you too for a great festival time at your place…take care

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Hi Amitava,
    Along with you, we are also eagerly waiting for Durga Pooja and your posts……………………….The preface to the series is really interesting. ????? ???? ???????? ?? ?? ????? ???? ????………….?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Mukesh.

      Wishing you to have a great time during Puja. Do let me know how you celebrate Puja at MP.
      It will be my pleasure to live upto your expectations in the coming post(s).
      Have a nice time.

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Excellent sir

  • rakesh kush says:

    Dear amtiva sir ..
    really durga puja is one of the biggest festival in our country.. specially in west bengal.
    west bengal & durga puja celebration are inextricably linked with each other..i have been celebrating
    durga puja since my childhood in my hometown JAMSHEDPUR every year..this year i am again going to jamshedpur for durga puja. all my friend will be gathered for celebration.in your next post plz try to post photos of different pandals in kolkata(if possible).WISH U A VERY HAPPY DURGA PUJA….JAY MAA DURGE.

    • Tx a lot Rakesh.
      It’s really good to know that you too celebrate Durga Puja in Jamshedpur…have a great time with everyone at home and with friends…I am sure you will enjoy a lot.

      I will definitely share photos – may not be in next post but later.

      Wishing you a very Durga Puja

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Amitav,

    Very well-timed post and I am sure the series is going to be very interesting and enlightening as well. The first part has set the pace. Sarat, kashphool and shiuli – they help in adding colours to our imagination.

    With Biswakarma pujo being over and Mahalaya approaching us, one knows that it is almost there. Agree with the idea that Puja , if marketed well, could be one of the landmark tourism stuff.

    Awaiting the aagomoni (arrival),

    Thanks,

    Auro.

    • Tx a lot Auro. It will be always my pleasure.

      As informed by you, next day I travelled another 30 kms from Manesar in search of Kashful…but couldn’t find…might have missed the place…and I was able to show idol making to my son finally. True, these are really adding colors to our imagination.

      Wishing you a very Happy Durga Puja…Take care and have a wonderful time with everyone.

      I will wish you again

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    thanks to such a excellent post & Pictures.
    Jai durga maa. I’ll wait for your next.

    • Hi Ritesh,
      Thank you so much. It’s my pleasure. I am also look forward to the ‘Author of the Month’ post eagerly.

      It will come soon, I am just finishing the next part and will submit before retiring for the day.
      Wishing you a very Durga Puja.

      Take care,

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Great beginning Amitava. I guess the travel has started as I could see the train pics and in next episode we would witness more of Pandals and everything else in Kolkata and around.

    • Hi Nandan…Tx a ton…slightly irregular in last few days – very hectic period, hence this delay in responding.

      Hope you had a nice vacation. Wishing you to have a great festival time with everyone at home & family. Have a nice time….take care

  • Naina says:

    Hi Amitava, this year in Kolkata puja pandals have these new themes – Goa Sun & Sand, usage of Plastic (pandal made of 21000 Plastic Water Bottles), Disney Land …. not sure if you would be visiting these….in case you are…. please share some pix here…..

    Heard a lot specially on these

    South Kolkatta .Behala, Behala Chaurasta, Shoker Bazar, Tolly Gunj
    North Kolkatta..Hathi Bagan, Paanch Matha Mod, Phodiya Pukur

    and many more.

    Whatever you share it will be a gateway to the glimpses of this great festival

    Subho Mahalaya.Happy Navratri, and Durga Puja. :D

    • Hi Naina,

      Subho Mahalaya and wishing you a very Happy Durga Puja.
      Yes…even there is a Dal Lake too…imagination at it’s best…
      I will definitely…tomorrow’s post is already scheduled and most probably in my last post, they will be there.

      Have a nice time during this festival period with everyone at home and friends…

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