Representation of the deity is on the lion or tigress, a carnivore which symbolize power and integrity. Each of the hands of the idol carry a separate weapon, thus signifying cultural aspects associated with our daily lives. Two, of her hands hold the spear which kills, Mahishasura the embolization of all evil spirit within us.
Durga is ideally an epitome of a young Bengali mother of four children viz. Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, Saraswati, the Goddess disseminating knowledge, Kartik, the God of beauty as well as warfare, signifying bachelorhood as well and Ganesha, the 'Siddhidata' who is depicted as a Karmayogi. Devi Durga is assumed to be the wife of 'Bholanath', viz. lord Shiva, who is the creator and destroyer of all good forces of nature.
Maha Sasthi, the start day of Durga Puja, starts with 'Devi Bodhan' which unveils the Goddess on the earth and integral drum-beats marks the spirit. She is worshipped through a mirror, which captures the true face of Indian women, constantly struggling to mark her existence.
Drum, also known as 'Dhak', enthralls the heart of the millions with its majestic rhythm. Vedic hymns are chanted from early in the morning, to mark Devi Durga's presence on earth. She and her children are ornamented with flowers, garlands and new dresses are wrapped around them, to welcome them on earth. The spirit of Maha Sasthi is lighted through all and sundry, who start visiting the local mandaps (pavilions). This is the day, on which we see the idol for the first time, inside local pandals. She is unveiled through vedic rituals, before the worship.
Following 'Bodhan' on Sasthi, Maha Saptami is marked by bathing of Banana tree (Kalabou Snan), in the holy river Ganges. This is when 'Life' is inflicted in the clay idol and 'pushpanjali' or public worship is started. It marks the auspicious moment when again drum beating is followed in a melody.
Special episode of Kalabou, who is supposed to be the wife of 'Lord Ganesha', marks the worship of a shy married lady, who happens to be Durga's daughter in law. Kalabou is the embolization of thousands of married women, who are based from the rural areas. She is wrapped in a white red bordered saree, which reminds us of our own mothers, and sisters who get newly married.
Hindu festivals are always marked to be culturally rich, and celebrated according to special 'tithis', which mark specialities of mother nature. The festival calendar depends on the movement of sun and moon. Consequently, most of the festivals are celebrated on different dates, depending on the positions of sun or moon. Durga Puja is celebrated in the 'autumn' (Sharatkal), when the sun is on a southward journey. Devipaksha marks the start point, when the goddess is worshipped through vedic hymns to come down on the earth. This is popularly known as 'Mahalaya', the day when Indian men offer prayers to their ancestors.
Durga Puja (also known as Sharadotsav or Durgotsava) is one of the most popular cultural festivals, among the hindus of Bengal. Not only Bengal, India worships Devi Durga in different forms, shapes and sizes. Devi Durga is embolized as a ten handed goddess symbolizing women power.
Maha Asthami puja begins on the next day. The worship reaches the peak during 'Sandhi Puja', the crossover time between Asthami & Navami (an auspicious moment in the Bengali Calendar). This is when pundits chant vedic hymns followed by 'Aarti' of Devi Durga using 108 candles (viz. Pradeep in Bengali). She is then worshipped with various ingredients, before the 'Navami' puja, which is when animal sacrifices are made in some places, to mark the power of goddess.
Eating delicious dishes is a part of the celebration. Navami is celebrated with animal sacrifices in some rural and semi urban areas. This actually epitomizes the win of good forces against the evil. But, the ritual is now getting banned through the government. Instead, 'pumpkin', 'cucumber' etc are sacrificed in front of the goddess.
Maha Navami is celebrated through savoring meat in most of the Bengali families, unlike Asthami which is marked as a day to observe 'being vegetarian'.
Puja ends with Dashami, when the idol is worshipped by Bengali married ladies for the last time. She is immersed in vermillion and sweets before being physically immersed in the holy river Ganges.
Vijaya Dashami marks the end of the puja officially. The ritual of worshipping the Goddess starts from the sixth day of Devipaksha and ends on the tenth day. The festive spirit lasts till Kali Puja (also known as Deepawali or Diwali), through exchange of good wishes, followed by touching feet of the elders by the juniors in the family.
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In the Himalayas, she is worshipped as the goddess on the tigress viz. Shailputri. In western India, Durga Puja, is celebrated in the form of Navratri. She is worshipped for nine days in different names viz. Brahmacharini, Shailputri, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Maha Gauri, and Siddhidatri. Each of the names, signify different force of nature.
There are facts and fictions, supporting interesting stories, against this incident, as per Hindu mythology. It is said that, 'Lord Ganesha' was afraid to marry, as he thought that there might be a rift between his mother and wife. He thus married a banana tree instead, so that no problems arise. However, Kalabou Snan remains and interesting part of the entire puja.