Festivals of India - Durga Puja

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 Vishaal 0 Comments

It’s in Autumn that Hindus celebrate Durga Puja, the main festival of Eastern India.

The festival attains greater prominence in West Bengal. In the past, Goddess Durga used to be worshipped only during Spring. The scriptures say that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga during the battle with Ravana, to rescue Sita. The prominence of Durga worship has a telling connection to this.

In West Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated for five days. It is one of the main festivals of the Bengalis. Women shop for the entire family and relatives much before the commencement of the puja. On the first day, the Sosti Puja, Bengalis have Debir Bodhon to welcome the goddess in the evening. A puja is performed by the Ghata Stapon where the image is brought to life. This is called Pran Pratishthan.

On the second day or the Shoptomi, Bengalis begin the puja after the Nobo Patrika - the binding of branches of nine trees together. Then, the assortment is bathed in the Ganga, after which it is draped in a red-bordered white saree and placed beside Lord Ganesh. Later, the Saptaari Puja is performed according to the auspicious timing, i.e. according to the lunar position. On the third day comes the Moha Oshtomi Puja. The last 24 minutes of Oshtiomi Tithi and the first 24 minutes of the Mobomir Tithi ’follow and then, the Shomdhi Puja is performed, with all its rituals, including an arati and lighting of 100 lamps.

On this evening, a virgin girl who hasn’t reached her puberty is worshipped as the Goddess incarnate. This is the Kuari Puja. Moha Shakti is a puja which symbolises woman power - The Shakti. On the fourth day with Nobomi Puja, a Yagna or havan is performed marking the completion of the puja and dedicating to the Goddess. That’s Aahuti, summarising the three-day offerings.

On all the above four days of puja, women of Bengali families play a vital role. The women on the first day of the puja welcome the goddess with Ulurdhoni and blow the Shonkho (conch). In all the puja days, women prepare the wicks for the oil lamps and also light up the lamps, with the blowing of conch. The women also lend a helping hand in the puja by cutting fruits for ‘prasad’ and such chores.

On the fifth day, on Doshomi (Dasara) marked as a day of immersion a puja is performed in the morning. The earthen pot placed in front of the Goddess is shaken by the priest to mark the end of the festival.

Then the priest walks around the idol a few times after which a sound ritual is performed by the women called the Shidur Kheia and Debir Boron.

Here, married women get together and smear vermilion on the forehead of the Goddess and offer sweets and betel leaves.

The women also wipe the face of the Goddess with the betel leaves to mark farewell and keep the rest of the vermilion at home to welcome the Goddess next year and seek blessing so that they can spend the rest of the year happily.

They later break into a revelry by applying Sindoor on each other and wishing a happy and long married life, saying Shubho Bijoya. The idols are taken to Ganga with music bands accompanying the procession, and are immersed in the river.

The women then cheerfully join the immersion procession, singing and dancing all the way.

But much more than the festivities, it’s the celebration of Shakti, the ultimate woman power which lends a definitive touch of difference to Dasara.

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