Durga Puja

Durga Puja, also called Durgotsava, is an annual Hindu festival in the Indian subcontinent that reveres the goddess Durga.[4][5] It is particularly popular in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Bihar,[6] Jharkhand,[7] Odisha, Bangladesh and the diaspora from this region, and in Nepal where it is called Dashain. The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, typically September or October of the Gregorian calendar,[8][9] and is a multi-day festival that features elaborate temple and stage decorations (pandals), scripture recitation, performance arts, revelry, and processions. [4][10][11] It is a major festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism across India and Shakta Hindu diaspora.[12][13][14]

Durga Puja festival marks the battle of goddess Durga with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura, and her emerging victorious.[15][16][note 1] Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of good over evil, but it also is in part a harvest festival that marks the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.[18][19] The Durga Puja festival dates coincide with Vijayadashami (Dussehra) observed by other traditions of Hinduism, where the Ram Lila is enacted — the victory of Rama is marked and effigies of demon Ravana are burnt instead.[20][21]

The primary goddess revered during Durga Puja is Durga, but her stage and celebrations feature other major deities of Hinduism such as goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, prosperity), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (god of good beginnings) and Kartikeya (god of war). In the Bengali traditions, the other deities next to her side are considered to be the children of Durga (Parvati).[22] The Hindu god Shiva, as Durga's husband, is also revered during this festival. The festival begins on the first day with Mahalaya, marking Durga's advent in her battle against evil. Starting with the sixth day (Sasthi), the goddess is welcomed, festive Durga worship and celebrations begin in elaborately decorated temples and pandals hosting the statues.[5][9] Lakshmi and Saraswati are revered on the following days. The festival ends of the tenth day of Vijaya Dashami, when with drum beats of music and chants, Shakta Hindu communities start a procession carrying the colorful clay statues to a river or ocean and immerse them, as a form of goodbye and her return to divine cosmos and Mount Kailash.[5][9]

The festival is an old tradition of Hinduism, though it is unclear how and in which century the festival began. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.[12] The prominence of Durga Puja increased during the British Raj in its provinces of Bengal and Assam.[23][5] Durga Puja is a ten-day festival,[24][4] of which the last five are typically special and an annual holiday in regions such as West Bengal, Assam,Bihar, Odisha and Tripura where it is particularly popular.[25][9] In the contemporary era, the importance of Durga Puja is as much as a social festival as a religious one wherever it is observed.[5]

Durga Puja
জী. ডি. ব্লক সল্টলেক দূর্গা পুজো ২০১৮
G.D Block, Saltlake Durga Puja
Observed byBengali, Odia, Maithils (Nepalis and Indians), other Nepalis[1] and Assamese as a socio-cultural and religious festival[2]
TypeHindu
CelebrationsFamily and other social gatherings, shopping and gift-giving, feasting, pandal-visiting, lighting decorations, cultural events, idol immersion etc.
ObservancesCeremonial worship of goddess Durga
BeginsSixth day of Ashwin shukla paksha[3]
Seventh day of Ashwin shukla paksha (in Bihar)
EndsTenth day of Ashwina shukla paksha[3]
2018 date15 October  – 19 October
2019 date4 October - 8 October
Frequencyannual
Related toMahalaya, Navratri, Dussehra
রেলপুকুর পাড় ইউনাইটেড ক্লাব দূর্গা পুজা ২০১৮
Durga idol closeup from Railpukur par United Club, Kolkata.

Names

Hindu Goddess - Durga
This is an idol of Durga Goddess also known as Parvati. Hindus worship idols and this is one of it which is hugely celebrated among the Hindus. This photo was captured at Ram Krishna Ashram Rishra at the third day of the four-day celebration.

In West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Tripura, Durga Puja is also called Akalbodhan (অকাল বোধন, "untimely awakening of Durga"), Sharadiya Pujo ("autumnal worship"), Sharodotsab (Bengali: শারদোৎসব, ("festival of autumn")), Maha Pujo ("grand puja"), Maayer Pujo ("worship of the Mother"), Durga Pujo, or merely Puja or Pujo. In Bangladesh, Durga Puja used to be celebrated as Bhagabati Puja.[26]

Durga puja is also called Navaratri Puja elsewhere in India,[5] such as in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra,[27] Kullu Dussehra in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh,[28] Mysore Dussehra in Mysore, Karnataka,[29] Bommai Golu in Tamil Nadu and Bommala koluvu in Andhra Pradesh.[30]

History

Durga is an ancient deity of Hinduism, according to archeological and textual evidence available. However, the origins of Durga Puja are unclear and undocumented. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga Puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.[12] The 11th or 12th century Jainism text Yasatilaka by Somadeva mentions a festival and annual dates dedicated to a warrior goddess, celebrated by the king and his armed forces, and the description mirrors attributes of a Durga Puja.[8] The word Durga, and related terms appear in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127, and in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda.[31][32][note 2] A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.[31] While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her or about Durga puja that is found in later Hindu literature.[34]

Dadhimati Mata Temple, Rajasthan
The Dadhimati Mata Temple of Rajasthan preserves a Durga-related inscription from chapter 10 of Devi Mahatmya. The temple inscription has been dated by modern methods to 608 CE.[35][36]

A key text associated with Durga Puja observations is Devi Mahatmya, which is recited during the festival. Durga was likely well established before the time this Hindu text was composed, which scholars variously estimate to between 400 and 600 CE.[37][38][39] The Devi Mahatmya mythology describes the nature of demonic forces symbolized by Mahishasura as shape-shifting, deceptive and adapting in nature, in form and in strategy to create difficulties and achieve their evil ends. Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.[15][16][note 3]

Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Epics period of ancient India, that is the centuries around the start of the common era.[40] Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna characters of the Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga.[41] She appears in Harivamsa in the form of Vishnu's eulogy, and in Pradyumna prayer. The prominent mention of Durga in this popular epics may have led to her worship.[42][8][43]

The Indian texts that mention the Durga Puja festival are inconsistent. The King Suratha legend found in some version of the Puranas mention it to be a spring festival, while the Devi-Bhagavata Purana and two other Shakta Puranas mention it to be an autumn festival. The more ancient Ramayana manuscripts are also inconsistent. Versions of Ramayana found in North, West and South India describe the Hindu god Rama to be remembering the Surya (the Sun god) before his battle with the demon Ravana, but the Bengali manuscripts of Ramayana such as by the 15th century Krttivasa describe Rama to be worshipping Durga.[44]

According to Pranab Bandyopadhyay, the worship of fierce warrior goddess Durga, and her darker and more violent manifestation Kali, became very popular in Bengal region during and after the medieval era Muslim invasion.[45] The significance of Durga and other goddesses in Hindu culture, states Patricia Monaghan, increased after Islamic armies conquered Indian subcontinent and attempted to deny iconographic representation of its male and female "idols".[46] According to Rachel McDermott, and other scholars such as Brijen Gupta, the persecution of Bengali Hindus in Bengal Sultanate and late medieval era religious politics led to a revival of Hindu identity and an emphasis on Durga Puja as a social festival that publicly celebrated the warrior goddess.[47]

From the medieval period up through present day, the Durga Puja has celebrated the goddess with performance arts and as a social event, while maintaining the religious worship.[48]

Practices

4 Durga puja goddess images collage
Durga puja deity images

The Durga Puja festival is a ten-day event, of which the last five mark the popular practices. The festival begins with Mahalaya, a day where Shakta Hindus remember the loved ones who have died, as well the advent of Durga.[5][9] The next most significant day of Durga Puja celebrations is the sixth day, called Shashthi where the local community welcome the goddess and festive celebrations are inaugurated. On the seventh day (Saptami), eighth (Ashtami) and ninth (Navami), the goddess along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya are revered and these days mark the main Puja (worship) with recitation of the scriptures, the legends of Durga in Devi Mahatmya and social visits by families to elaborately decorated and lighted up temples and pandals (theatre like stages).[49][50][51]

The Durga festival is, in part, a post-monsoon harvest festival observed on the same days in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, as those in its other traditions.[52][53] The practice of including a bundle of nine different plants, called navapattrika, as nature's symbolism of Durga, is a testament practice to its agricultural importance.[18] The typically selected plants include not only representative important crops, but also non-crops. According to David Kinsley, a professor of Religious Studies specializing on Hindu goddesses, this probably signifies the Hindu belief that the goddess is "not merely the power inherent in the growth of crops but the power inherent in all vegetation".[18]

The festival is a major social and public event in eastern and northeastern states of India, where it dominates the religious life, with temporary stage (pandal) built in community squares, roadside shrines and large Durga temples. However, it is also observed by some Shakta Hindus as a private, home-based festival.[54] The festival opens at twilight with prayers to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music, poetry, independent thought, inner knowing and creativity.[55] She is believed to be another aspect of the same one multidimensional goddess Devi Durga, and who is the external and internal activity of all existence, in everything and everywhere. This is typically also the day that the eyes of all deities on the Durga Puja stage are painted, bringing them to a life like appearance.[55][56] The day also marks prayers to Ganesha and visit to one or more Durga temples.[57]

The day two to five continue the remembrance and preparation to other aspects (manifestations) of goddess Durga, such as Kumari (goddess of fertility), Mai (mother), Ajima (grandmother), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and in some regions of the Saptamatrikas (seven mothers) or Navadurga (nine aspects of Durga).[58][11][59]

The sixth day launches the major festivities and social celebrations. It is called Sasthi (literally, sixth), the goddess is welcomed, festive Durga worship and celebrations begin in elaborately decorated temples and pandals hosting the statues.[5][9] The first nine days overlap with Navaratri festivities in other traditions of Hinduism.[60][21]

Durga Puja recitation
A sample, before drum beats (51 secs).

The puja rituals are long and complicated. Three days of Mantras (words for spiritual transformation), Shlokas (verse) chants and Arati (prayer) and offerings are made, which include Vedic chants and multiple recitations of the Devi Mahatmya text in Sanskrit.[51] Durga Slokas (which is also known as Devi Mantra)[61] praises Durga as symbol of all divine forces. According to the sloka, Durga is omnipresent as the embodiment of power, nourishment, memory, forbearance, faith, forgiveness, intellect, wealth, emotions, desires, beauty, satisfaction, righteousness, fulfillment and peace.[62][note 4] The specific practices vary by region.[66] The following being most common:

Durga Puja sindoor khela before image immersion Vijaya Dashami
Playful smearing of vermilion on Vijaya Dasami of Durga Puja, West Bengal
  • Preliminaries: the preparations before the actual Durga puja begins.[67]
  • Bodhana: the rites to awaken and welcome the goddess to be a guest, typically done on the sixth day of the festival.[68]
  • Adhivasa: anointing ritual wherein many symbolic offerings are made to Durga, where each item represents a remembrance of subtle forms of her. Typically completed on the sixth day as well.[69]
  • Saptami: bathing of the goddess, selection of the priest, elaborate prayers (arati), recitation of texts describing Durga heading to war against evil done on the seventh day of the festival.[70]
  • Mahastami: similar to Saptami, more prayers, recitation and enactment of Durga legends and scriptures on the eighth day. The day is significant because the moment when it ends and ninth day begins is considered the moment Durga kills the buffalo demon, the good once again emerges victorious over evil.[71]
Aarti-dance-bangalore-2009
Aarti dance on Mahanavami, Durga Puja in Bangalore (2009)
  • Sandhi Puja: one of the most important rituals during Durga Puja, it is a forty eight minute high point that celebrates the climax of war which goddess Durga was engaged in. It is done at the exact time Mahashtami ends and Mahanavami begins, with rituals being performed for the last 24 minutes of Mahashtami and for the first 24 minutes of Mahanavami. The legend behind Sandhi Puja comes from when Durga was engaged in a fierce battle with Mahishasura and was attacked by the demons Chanda and Munda. Goddess Chamunda emerged from the third eye of Durga and killed Chanda and Munda at the cusp of Ashtami and Navami. In some regions, devotees sacrifice an animal such as a buffalo or goat, but in many regions there isn't an actual animal sacrifice and a symbolic remembrance substitutes it. The surrogate effigy is smeared in red vermilion to symbolize the blood spilled.[72] The goddess is then offered food (bhog) by women, and afterwards everyone eats. Major sites celebrating Durga Puja engage in a sixteen part devotional service. The community begins merry making, music, dancing and women playfully smear the faces of their companions with sindoor (vermilion), all as a mark of the victory of good over evil.[73]
  • Mahanavami: the ninth day of festival observes rites similar to Saptami, with the difference that the celebration is after Durga's victory and Vedic style homa (fire oblation) rituals are now included. The other deities on the stage, such as Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Saraswati are remembered and prayers offered to them.[74]
  • Vijaya Dasami: the tenth and last day, begins with Sindoor Khela, where married women smear sindoor or vermillion on the Goddess' idol, on her forehead and feet, before smearing it on each other. Since sindoor is like an ornament for married women, this ritual signifies them wishing each other a happy married life. They also offer bhog to the goddess. It ends with a great procession where the clay statues are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean coast for a solemn goodbye to Durga. It is an emotional day for some devotees, and the congregation sings emotional goodbye songs.[75][76] When the procession reaches the water, Durga is immersed, the clay dissolves, and she is believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva and cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members.[77] Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.[78]

Dhunuchi Naach, a dance performed with dhunachi (incense burner) is an integral part of the rituals. Drummers called dhakis, carrying large leather-strung dhak create music, people dance and complete the final day of worship called aarati.

Decorations: sculptures and stages

4 Durga puja decorations collage
Durga puja decorations

The entire process of creation of the sculptures (murti) from the collection of clay to the ornamentation is a ceremonial process. Though the festival is observed post monsoon harvest, the artisans begin making the statues months before, during the summer. The process begins with prayer to Ganesha and to the materials such as bamboo frames in which the statue are cast.[79]

Clay, or local soil collected from different parts of the region, forms the base. This choice is a religious tradition wherein Durga, as the creative energy and material, is believed to be present everywhere and everything in the universe.[79] In Kolkata, one custom is to include soil samples, in the clay mixture for Durga, from areas locals believe to be nishiddho pallis (forbidden territories, brothels).[80]

The clay base is combined with straw, kneaded then molded into cast made from bamboo. This is set like any clay pot, layered to a final shape, cleaned, and polished when ready. A layer of vegetable fiber called jute, mixed in with clay, is attached to the top to prevent the statue from cracking in the months ahead. The heads of the statues are more complex, and usually cast separately.[79] The limbs of the statues are mostly shaped from bundles of straws.[79] Then, starting about August, the local artisans hand-paint the statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, Kartikeya, the lion and the buffalo demon. The goddesses are dressed in fine silk saris, shown bejeweled and put into a pandal.[79][81]

The procedures and proportions of statue (pratima or murti) are described in arts-related Sanskrit text of Hinduism, such as the Vishvakarma sastra.[82]

Environmental impact

The traditional idols, states Christopher Chapple, are made of biodegradable materials such as "straw, clay, resin, and wood".[83] In the contemporary era, brighter colored statues have increased and diversified the use of non-biodegradable, cheaper or more colorful substitute synthetic raw materials. Environmental activists have raised concerns about the paint used to produce the statue, stating that the heavy metals in these paints pollute rivers when the statues are immersed at the end of the Durga festival.[83]

Brighter colors that are also biodegradable and eco-friendly, as well as the historic tradition-based natural colors are typically more expensive.[84] The state of West Bengal has banned the use of hazardous paints, and local Indian governments have started distributing lead-free paints to artisans at no cost to prevent heavy metal pollution.[85]

Animal sacrifice, symbolic sacrifice

Shakta Hindu communities mark the slaying of buffalo demon and victory of Durga with a symbolic or actual sacrifice. Most communities prefer symbolic sacrifice, where a statue of asura demon made of flour, or equivalent, is immolated and smeared with vermilion to remember the blood that had necessarily been spilled during the war.[72][86] Other substitutes include a vegetal or sweet dish considered equivalent to the animal.[87] In many cases, Shaktism devotees consider animal sacrifice distasteful, practice alternate means of expressing devotion while respecting the views of others in their tradition.[88]

In other communities, an actual animal is sacrificed, mainly at temples of Goddess such as Bhavani or Kali.[89] In Nepal, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, animal sacrifices are performed at Shakti temples, to mark the legend[90] of goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon. This involves slaying of a fowl, goat or a male water buffalo. This practice is rare among Hindus, outside the region of Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Assam.[91] Further, even in these states, the festival season is primarily when significant animal sacrifices are observed.[91]

The Rajput of Rajasthan worship their weapons and horses on Navaratri, and formerly offered a sacrifice of a goat to the goddess – a practice that continues in some places.[92][93] The ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage into manhood and readiness as a warrior. The ritual is directed by a priest.[94] The Kuldevi among these Rajput communities is a warrior-pativrata guardian goddess, with local legends tracing reverence for her during Rajput-Muslim wars.[95]

Theme-based pujas and pandals

Two Durga Puja theme-based pandals in Kolkata

2010 Durga Puja Barisha Pandal
2011 Durga Puja Pandal

Months before the start of Durga puja, youth members of a community organize as a team, collect donations, engage priests and artisans, buy votive materials and help build a theme-based stage called pandal. The Durga statue is designed from clay and clothes and colors by the commissioned artisans. The design and decoration is a team effort involving artists, architects and community representatives hosting it. The budget required for such theme-based pujas is significantly higher than traditional pujas. These attract crowds of visitors. The preparations and the building of pandals are a significant arts-related economic activity, often attracting major sponsors.[96]

The growth of competitiveness in theme pandals have escalated costs and scale of Durga Puja in eastern states of India. Some communities question the billboards, the economic competition behind the Durga Puja between communities, and seek return to basics.[97] The competition takes many forms, such as the height of statue. In 2015, an 88-foot statue of Durga in Kolkata's Deshapriya Park attracted numerous devotees, with some estimates placing visitors at one million.[98][99]

Media attention

Durga puja mood starts off with the Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour radio programme that has been popular with the community since the 1950s.[100] While earlier it used to be conducted live, later a recorded version began to be broadcast. Bengalis traditionally wake up at 4 in the morning on Mahalaya day to listen to the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns from the scriptures from the Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi Path).[101]

Durga Puja Dhak Sample Sound
A 47 second sample of Dhak playing during Durga Puja.

TV and radio channels telecast Puja celebrations. Many Bengali/Assamese channels devote whole days to the Pujas. Bengali and Oriya weekly magazines bring out special issues for the Puja known as "Pujabarshiki" or "Sharadiya Sankhya". These contain the works of many writers both established and upcoming and are thus much bigger than the regular issues. Some notable examples are Anandamela, Shuktara, Desh, Sarodiya Anandabazar Patrika, Sananda, Nabakallol, Bartaman[102] All major local news publications are closed on the last day of the festivities.

Regional variations

There is enormous variation in worship practices and rituals associated with Durga Puja, as is the case with other Hindu festivals.[103] Hinduism accepts flexibility and leaves the set of practices to the choice of the individuals concerned. Different types of Durga Puja are readily practiced in the same neighborhood, as well as regionally, with these variations accepted across temples, pandals and within families.[104] The festival is most associated with Bengali Hindus, and even there the community grants freedom of variability and accepts differences. Some Puja are flamboyant, some are simple. There are differences in the Puja ambiences between theme-based pujas of cities and puja pandals of towns/villages, between family pujas and community (barowari) pujas of neighborhoods or apartments. [104]

Varanasi India
Durga Kund Temple in Varanasi, a major Durga Puja venue.

The style and nature of the Puja varies from being Vedic, or Puranic, or Tantric, or a combination of these.[104] The Bengali Durga Puja typically combines all three. The non-Bengali Durga Puja tends to be essentially Vedic (srauta) wherein the melodies of Vedic hymns are sung, but it too incorporates esoteric elements making the Puja an example of a Vaidik-Tantric practice.[105]

Historical evidence suggests that the Durga Puja has evolved over time, becoming more elaborate, social and creative. The festival has been a domestic puja, a form of practice that remains popular. Durga Puja is also practiced in the sarvajanin (public) form, where communities get together, pool their resources and effort to set up pandals, lighting decorations etc. and then celebrate the event as a megashow to share.[106] The origins of the latter variation are unclear, with some evidence suggesting a family in Kolkatta revived this celebration in 1411 CE. Another set of sources suggest that a Bengali landlord named Kamsanarayan held a megashow in 1583, or by others in late 16th century Bengal.[106] Yet, this festival of Bengal is likely much older with the discovery of 11th and 12th century Durga Puja manual manuscripts such as Durgotsavaviveka, Durgotsava Prayoga, Vasantaviveka and Kalaviveka.[107] The rituals associated with the Durga Puja migrated to other regions, from Bengal, such as those in Varanasi, a city that has historically attracted sponsorship from Hindus from various parts of the Indian subcontinent including Bengal.[108] In contemporary India, Durga Puja is celebrated in numerous styles and forms.[109]

West Bengal

আহিরীটোলা সার্বজনীন দূর্গা পুজো ২০১৮
Durga Idol in Ahiritola, Kolkata (2018).

Durga Puja is the biggest and most widely celebrated festival of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Odhisa.[110] It is held over a five-day period. The city is decked up with festive lights, loudspeakers play popular songs as well as recitation of mantras by priests, thousands of beautiful pandals are erected by communities in cities, towns and villages across the state, but particularly in Kolkata. The roads become overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of revellers, devotees and pandal-hoppers visiting the pandals on Puja days. It creates a chaotic traffic condition despite all efforts of traffic and crowd management. Shops, eateries, restaurants stay open all night; fairs are set up and cultural programmes are held.[111] People form organizing committees, which plan and oversee the pandal (temporary shrine and stage) for the festivities. Today, Durga Puja has turned into a consumerist social carnival, biggest public spectacle and major art event riding on the wave of commercialisation, corporate sponsorship and craze for award-winning. For private domestic pujas, families dedicate an area of their homes known as thakur dalan for Durga Puja inside which the potters place Durga and then the dressers deck decorate it with home-dyed fabric, sola ornamentation and gold and silver foil decorations. Elaborate rituals like arati are performed and prasad is distributed after being offered to the gods. As a tradition, married daughters return to or revisit their parents and celebrate the Durga Puja together, a symbolism for goddess Durga who is believed to return to her parent's home for the festival.[112]

Patna-kalam1
Pictures depicting festival celebration in Patna style during the 18th century.
Religious Procession- Durga LACMA 37.28.19
A Durga Puja procession painting from about 1800.

Durga Puja is a major gift-giving and shopping season in Bengal, with people buying gifts for not only the family members but also for close relatives and friends. New clothes are the traditional gift, and people wear them to go out together to visit countless Puja pandals. Some people go to the places of tourist attractions during the Puja holidays, while others return home from their workplaces to spend the festive days with their family members. [112] Beyond being a family, social and religious event, Durga Puja has also been a political theatre. Major regional and national political parties have sponsored and leveraged Durga Puja to spread their ideologies given the festival's importance to the culture of Bengali Hindus.[113]

The organizing committees of each pandal hires a purohita (priest) who performs the puja rituals on behalf of the community.[114] For the priests, the Durga Puja is a major time of activity, wherein he pursues the timely completion of a busy Vedic-Puranic-Tantric ritual sequence along timed to various offerings and fire oblations, in full public view, while the social festivities occur in parallel.[115] The complex rituals include periods of accurate and melodic scripture recitation. The third and fourth day of the Puja are increasingly complex, while hundreds of thousands of people visit to witness it. [116] On the day of Vijayadashami, the idols are carried out in grand immersion processions across Bengal and then the idols are ritually immersed into the rivers or waterbodies amid singing, water-throwing and fireworks. The immersion ceremony continues till a couple of days after. [117]

Colonial era immersion rituals

According to Claire Alexander and other scholars, the ritual of immersing Durga idol into river attracted the attention of colonial era travelers to the Bengal region from Europe, such as Garcin de Tassy and Emma Roberts. In 1831, Tassy reported that similar rituals were annually observed by Islamic community in Bengal as well. Shia Muslims observed Muharram over 10 days, took out processions in memory of their Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and then cast a memorial Imam's cenotaph into a river on the 10th day. Further, stated Tassy, the Muslim rituals included the same offerings at their annual festival in the memory of their Imam during Muharram, as the Hindus did during Durga Puja.[118] According to Aslam Syed, the immersion in water ritual by Hindus for Durga in Bengal, and Ganesh in the western states of India, may have grown because the Hindu leaders attempted to create a competing procession and immersion ritual to that of Islamic Muharram allowed by the colonial British government in the 19th and early 20th century.[119]

Maharashtra

Nashik holds four major celebrations – including: the Government of India Press grounds organised by Nashik Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee which is the oldest and biggest; the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (H.A.L)in Ojhar; at Artillery Station, Deolali; the industrial area of Satpur-Ambad. In recent years, places such as CIDCO, Rajeevnagar, Panchavati and Mahatmanagar also have set up Durga Puja mandals.[120]

Delhi

PA060139 cooperative
Durga Puja in New Delhi, 2008

In 1910, a year before Delhi was declared the capital of British India, the first Sarbojanin (community) puja in Delhi was organised near Kashmiri Gate by a group of expatriate Bengalis, including the doctor Hemchandra Sen. This group became the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, popularly known as the "Kashmere Gate Puja".[121] The Timarpur puja (near Delhi University) started in 1914.[122]

In 2011, over 800 pujas were held in Delhi, with a few hundred more in Gurgaon and Noida.[123]

Tripura

There were over 2500 community celebrations in Tripura as of 2013. Durga Puja began over 200 years ago at the Durgabari temple in Agartala, started by King Radha Kishore Manikya Bahadur.[124][125]

Other countries

Bangladesh

Durga Puja is widely celebrated by the Bangladesh's minority Hindu community. Some Bengali Muslims also take part in the pujo (Durga Puja).[126] In Dhaka, the Dhakeshwari Temple and mandaps attract numerous visitors and devotees, and on Vijaya Dashami, the immersion processions head to Sadarghat (Dhaka's river port), where the idols are immersed.[127]

China and Hong Kong

In the recent past, Durga Puja celebrations and festivities were also started in Hong Kong by the Bengali diaspora.[128]

Nepal

Durga Puja in Nepal is called Dashain.[4][10]

United States

Durga Puja is organized by some Bengali communities in the United States.[129]

Europe

Durga Puja Köln 2009 1
Durga puja pandal in Germany (2009)

Durga Puja is organised by Bengali communities in Europe. Although pandals are not constructed, the sculptures are imported from India. According to BBC News, for community celebrations in London in 2006, these "idols, belonging to a tableau measuring 18ft by 20ft, were made from clay, straw and vegetable dyes". At the end of the Durga Puja, these were immersed in River Thames, for the first time in 2006, after "the community was allowed to give a traditional send-off to the deities by London's port authorities". The Bengali community stated, per the BBC News report, that the immersion ceremony "is a very sentimental issue for us, everybody wanted to see the idols being given a proper immersion".[130]

In Germany, Durgapuja is celebrated in several cities across the country. Some of the top mentions are "Duesseldorf Durgapuja", who have been celebrating this since 2012 with the same zeal and vigour as in India. The Indische Gemeinde Duesseldorf is the organization which manages this 4 day extravaganza with voluntary support from members of the club and first time visitors alike. The event consists of performing all rituals to the book, Prasad after the puja, Indian Lunch, Dinner and snacks every day for all visitors, Cultural programmes from members of the club as well as by performing artists flown out of India, and Sandhya Arati (Evening worship) along with the Dhak (traditional drum) and kansor (traditional metal disc).[131] The biggest Durga Puja in Germany is celebrated in Cologne Durga puja;.[132] It is also celebrated in Munich, Berlin and other German cities.

In Switzerland, the 'Swisspuja'[133] group based in Baden, Aargau, in northern Switzerland, has been celebrating Durga Puja since 2003.

In Sweden Durgapuja is celebrated in many places like Stockholm and Helsingborg. A group 'Bengali Cultural Society - South Sweden (BCSOFSS)'[134] based on Helsingborg has started Durgapuja since 2017.

DurgapujaNl
Durga Puja by Holland-e-Hoichoi in Amstelveen, Netherlands

In Netherlands Durgapuja is celebrated in several places like Amstelveen, Eindhoven and Voorschoten. Bengali community 'Holland-e-Hoichoi'[135] and 'Anandadhara Netherlands'[136] has started Durga Puja in Amstelveen (close to Amsterdam) since 2017.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging victorious over the vicious.[17]
  2. ^ It appears in Khila (appendix, supplementary) text to Rigveda 10.127, 4th Adhyaya, per J. Scheftelowitz.[33]
  3. ^ In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging victorious over the vicious.[17]
  4. ^ Various versions of Devi mantra exist.[63] Examples include: [a] "We know the Great Goddess. We make a meditation of the goddess Durga. May that Goddess guide us on the right path. (Durga Gayatri Mantra, recited at many stages of Durga puja);[64] [b] Hrim! O blessed goddess Durga, come here, stay here, stay here, take up residence here, accept my worship. (Durga Avahana Mantra);[65] etc.

References

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  127. ^ Ellen London (2004). Bangladesh. Gareth Stevens. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8368-3107-8.
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  135. ^ Holland-e-Hoichoi
  136. ^ [1]

Further reading

External links

Aarti

Aarti also spelled arti, arati, arathi, aarthi (In Devanagari: आरती ārtī) is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light (usually from a flame) is offered to one or more deities. Aarti(s) also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when the light is being offered.

Agamani-Vijaya

Agamani (Bengali: আগমনী গান Āgōmōni gān "Songs of advent") and Vijaya (বিজয়া গীতি Bījōyā gīţi "Songs of parting") are genres of Bengali folk songs celebrating the return of the Goddess Parvati to the home of her parents on the eve of the Bengali autumn festival of Durga Puja. The Aagamani songs describe the return of Parvati to her home in rural Bengal, not as Goddess but as daughter, and are followed by Vijaya songs which describe the sorrow of separation three days later as Parvati returns to her husband Lord Shiva.

The folklore that give origin to the songs are the mythological stories of Goddess Parvati- daughter of the mighty King of the Himalayas- who marries Lord Shiva. Shiva is described in Hindu mythology as the ageless hermit who is also pauper, and as such personifies the poor husband with little interest in the bonds of family life. One night in autumn, Parvati's mother Goddess Menaka dreamt of her daughter as did Parvati of her mother. Menaka urged her husband to bring Parvati home, even if just for the festival, and Parvati agrees at her father's request to return for the three days of the festival.

Barowari

Barowari refers to the public organisation of a religious or other festival, mainly in West Bengal. This is extensively used for Durga Puja. The word "Barowari" came from the words "baro", which means 12, and "yari" (friendly connection). Much earlier in 1790, 12 Brahmin friends in Guptipara, Hooghly, had decided to institute Community Puja. Subscriptions were raised from neighbours. Thus started baro-yari or Barowari Puja in Bengal which gained popularity. Initially, Durga Puja was an occasion for the rich Babus of Kolkata, later individual initiatives declined as collective enterprises came to replace it.

In more recent times, the nomenclature ‘barowari’ is being replaced by ‘sorbojonin’ (meaning all inclusive). The Barowari festival is the opposite of household festival organised privately, but often allowing the participation of outsiders. The Barowari festival is organised with funds raised from the public at large through donations or subscriptions.

Behala

Behala, is a locality of South West Kolkata, in Kolkata district in the Indian state of West Bengal. Behala is a part of Kolkata Municipal Corporation area. Now it is broadly spread across Ward Nos. 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, and 132 of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and is divided into two Vidhan Sabha constituencies: Behala Paschim and Behala Purba. Behala, Parnasree, Thakurpukur, Haridebpur and Sarsuna police stations serve this area under the South West Division of Kolkata Police also known as Behala Division (The division comprises Behala, Sarsuna, Haridebbpur, Thakurpukur, Parnasree and Taratola).Behala is one of the oldest residential areas of the city. The Sabarna Roy Choudhury's, one of the oldest zamindar families of western Bengal and the trustee of Kalighat Kali Temple lives here. It is also home to Sourav Ganguly, former Indian national cricket captain and Sovan Chatterjee, the former Mayor of Kolkata.

Behala is also an important industrial area of the city. There are many factories and industries which include the manufacturing units like chemicals, plastic and plastic recycling, spray painting, metal plating and galvanizing. There are many schools, hospitals, banks and other important institutes in the region.The Durga Puja celebration of Sabarna Roy Choudhury family at Barisha was launched in 1610 by Laksmikanta Majumdar, making it the second oldest family Durga Puja in western Bengal. Today Durga Puja at Behala is marked by exotic theme-based sarbojanin pujas. Barisha Chandi Mela, a 10-day fair held every year in November–December since 1792, is another notable festival. The major landmarks at Behala are West Bengal State Archaeology Museum, Sabarna Sangrahashala, Behala Airport, Sonar Durgabari, Barisha Chandi Mandir, Siddheshwari Kali Temple(The oldest temple) etc.

Cuttack Chandi Temple

The Katak Chandi Temple (in Oriya କଟକ ଚଣ୍ଡୀ ମନ୍ଦିର ) is an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Chandi, the presiding deity of Cuttack, Orissa. The temple is located nearby the banks of the Mahanadi River. It is famous for the annual Durga Puja and Kali Puja festivals. The Durga Puja festivities are prominent in Maa Katak Chandi temple which takes place for 16 days starting from dark fortnight of Ashwina Krishna Ashtami till Ashwina shukla navami and Vijayadashami. The goddess popularly called as Maa Katak Chandi, sits and rules on the heart of the ancient city. She has four hands holding Paasha (noose), Ankusha (goad), gestures dispelling fear (Abhaya), and granting boon (Varada). She is worshiped as Bhuvaneshvari Mahavidya (the queen of universe) by Sevayatas belonging to Utkala Brahmins every day. Maa Chandi is worshipped in various incarnations of Durga during the puja. In Cuttack, people strongly believe Maa Katak Chandi as 'The Living Goddess'.

Delhi Durga Puja Samiti

Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, also known as the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja is the oldest community Durga Puja (festival) of Delhi. It is currently held in the lawns of Bengali Sr Sec School, Alipur Road, Delhi. It started in the year of 1910 at Roshanpura Kali Mandir near Nai Sarak as "Baroyari Puja" (Public Festival). It was an effort on the part of the probasi (settled) Bengalis living in the city, especially, of one Railway Doctor Hemchandra Sen (whose efforts saw the Puja being brought at a rented place at Roshanpura). Subsequently, Lala Lachminarayan & his son Lala Girdhari Lal helped the puja samiti grow by providing them space (from 1913 to 1946) in their Dharamshala located near Fathepuri Mosque.

Prior to 1910, the first Durga Puja is believed to have been celebrated as far back as 1842 by one Majumdar of Rajshai, the next two were held in 1875 and 1904. However, all of them were Private Pujas and discontinued thereafter.

With Bengalis embracing English education with great enthusiasm, many had to leave home to serve in different parts of the country during British times. This brought a clutch of Bengalis to the city. And in 1911, when Delhi was officially declared the Capital of British India, a good chunk of them came to work in various government offices. These educated Bengalis formed a close knit community, unhindered by petty professional jealousies. This gave a huge thrust to the annual Durga puja celebrations. At first (in 1910 & 1911), the puja in Delhi was performed by ritually consecrating the ‘mangal ghata’ — the earthenware pot, symbol of the ‘Devi’. However, enthusiasm was unbounded when idol worship (pratima puja) started in 1912. With the help of the late Parmananda Biswas, who happened to be a Christian gentleman, an idol was brought from Varanasi (Kashi). Many Railway employees too made it possible to bring the idol from Kashi to Delhi. This arrangement continued till 1925. From 1926, the idol began to be made in the city itself. Since then its no looking back. Many eminent persons visited this Puja venue including the stalwarts like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1935 and Smt Indira Gandhi, the then PM, in 1969..

Dhak (instrument)

The dhak (Bengali: ঢাক) is a huge membranophone instrument from South Asia.

The shapes differ from the almost cylindrical to the barrel. The manner of stretching the hide over the mouths and lacing also varies. It suspended from the neck, tied to the waist and kept on the lap or the ground, and usually played with wooden sticks. The left side is coated to give it a heavier sound.Drum beats are an integral part of Durga Puja.The Statesman wrote, "Durga Puja does not assume the festive aura without the maddening beats of the dhak, the large drum that men hang around their necks and play with two thin sticks to infuse the frenzied rhythm into listeners. Those enchanting beats are enough to conjure up the sights and smells of Durga Puja."

Dhaki

Dhakis (Bengali: ঢাকি) are traditional drummers who play the dhak (drum) during Hindu festivals, primarily in Bengal. Drum beats are an integral part of the five-day-long annual festivities associated with Durga Puja but dhakis are losing out to pre-recorded CDs and cassettes.

Dhunachi

Dhunachi (धुनाची,धुनुची)(ধুনুচি) is a Bengali incense burner (commonly used in conjunction with Indian Frankincense or "Dhuno" ("धूना")("ধুনো") for traditional ceremonies) used for one of the stages during aarti, or ritualized dance worship. It is often used following the arati with the pradip (a lamp with an odd number of wicks).

The dhunachi has a flared shape and is held by a stem with a large cavity at the top, and is traditionally made of earthenware. When made of brass or silver, it needs a longer handle because of the heat. It is lit by placing burning coal at the bottom, which ignites a layer of slow-burning coconut husk, on which incense (usually resin like Indian Frankincense or "Dhuno" ("धूना")("ধুনো")) is sprinkled.

During the Durga puja in eastern India, it is common to have dhunuchi nritya, or a frenzied dance with the censer, to the accompaniment of feverish dhak rolls. Many puja traditions also organize contests for the best dance, where some performers may go with as many as three dhunuchis - the third one held between the teeth. Dhunachi arati also known as "dhoop arati".

Durga

{{Infobox deity

| type = Hindu

| image = Durga Mahisasuramardini.JPG

| caption = Durga Mahishasura-Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon

| name = Durga

| script= दुर्गा

| script_name = Sanskrit

| Sanskrit_transliteration = Durgā (\dûr-gā\)

| deity_of = Goddess of VictoryVictory of Good over EvilThe Invincible OneFierce form of Mother Goddess

| affiliation = Katyayani, Parvati, Adi-Parashakti, Lakshmi, Chandika, Tripura Sundari, Sati, Annapoorna, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhavani, Bhairavi,[[Mahadurga (goddess| Mahadurga)

| weapon = Chakra (discus), Shankha (conch shell), Trishula (Trident), Gada (mace), Bow and Arrow, Scimitar and Shield, Ghanta (bell)

| mount = Tiger or Lion

| festivals = Durga Puja, Durga Ashtami, Navratri

}}

Durga, also identified as Adi Parashakti, Devī, Shakti, Parvati Lakshmi, Amba, Kali and by numerous other names, is a principal and popular form of Hindu Goddess. She is the warrior goddess, whose mythology centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. She is the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation.Durga is also worshiped in the form of her nine epithets called Navadurga.

Durga is depicted in the Hindu pantheon as a Goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon, often defeating Mahishasura (lit. buffalo demon).She is a central deity in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman. One of the most important texts of Shaktism is Devi Mahatmya, also known as Durgā Saptashatī, which celebrates Durga as the goddess, declaring her as the supreme being and the creator of the universe. Estimated to have been composed between 400 and 600 CE, this text is considered by Shakta Hindus to be as important a scripture as the Bhagavad Gita. She has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered after spring and autumn harvests, specially during the festival of Navratri.

Durga Puja in Odisha

Durga Puja in Odisha (Odia: ଦୁର୍ଗା ପୂଜା) is observed as Vasanti Durga Puja or Chaitra Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Chaitra (March or April), Sharadiya Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Aswina (September–October) and Kalipuja (October–November), which are celebrated with utmost solemnity, gaiety and éclat.

The autumnal or Sharadiya ceremony is known under various names in Odisha: Dussehra, Durgapuja, Akal Bodhan, Shodasa Upachara, Durgotsava, Sharadiya Utsava etc.

Festivals in Kolkata

Kolkata (or Calcutta) holds many festivals throughout the year. . Durga Puja is the largest festival of West Bengal, and it features colourful pandals, decorative idols of Hindu goddess Durga and her family, lighting decorations and fireworks. Other major festivals are Kali Puja, Holi, Diwali, Saraswati Puja, Jagaddhatri Puja, Rath Jatra, Kojagori Lakshmi Puja, Poush Parbon, Poila Boishakh, Eid, Muharram, Christmas etc. Kolkata Book Fair, Kolkata International Film Festival and Dover Lane Music Festival are major annual cultural events of the city.

Festivals of Odisha

This article lists the traditional festivals and other cultural events in the Odisha region of India.

Guptipara

Guptipara is a village in Balagarh, a community development block that forms an administrative division in the Sadar subdivision of the Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Jagaddhatri

Jagaddhatri or Jagadhatri (Bengali: জগদ্ধাত্রী, Devanagri: जगद्धात्री, Oriya: ଜଗଦ୍ଧାତ୍ରୀ, 'Bearer of the World') is an aspect of the Hindu goddess Durga, who is particularly worshipped in West Bengal and Odisha states of India. Her cult is directly derived from Tantra where she is a symbol of sattva beside Durga and Kali, respectably symbolized with Rajas and Tamas.

Kumortuli

Kumortuli (also spelt Kumartuli, or the archaic spelling Coomartolly) is a traditional potters’ quarter in northern Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta), the capital of the east Indian state of West Bengal. The city is famous as a sculpting hot-spot which not only manufactures clay idols for various festivals but also regularly exports them.

List of festivals in West Bengal

West Bengal celebrates many holidays and festivals. The Bengali proverb “Baro Mase Tero Parbon” (“Thirteen festivals in twelve months”) indicates the abundant of festivity in the state. In West Bengal throughout the year many festivals are celebrated. Durga Puja is solemnized as perhaps the most significant of all celebrations in Bengal. Here is a list of the main festivals of West Bengal.

Rameswarpur

Rameswarpur is a village near Dhamnagar in Bhadrak district of Odisha, India. This settlement was initiated about four centuries ago during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar by the "Ghosh Mahashays" who migrated to permanently settle down here, having come as a part of the contingent of Todarmal during his famed survey of India.

This small village also boasts of conducting the oldest Durga Puja on record at the same venue anywhere in the world, which continues from the first of the Mahashays.Before the concept of Sarvajanin Durga Puja started, it was being conducted by princely houses and the first such Puja being conducted anywhere in the world at the same venue and continuing till date is in Orissa. It is at Rameswarpur in Bhadrak district of the state, where it was started about four centuries ago by the Mahashay family (Roy family) who migrated in from Kotarang near Howrah as a part of Todarmal's famous survey with Shri Chaitanya Dev of India during Emperor Akbar's rule. Rameswarpur is in the banks of River Genguti.

Rameswarpur holds the record of performing the oldest Durga Puja in the World.The Mahashays, who were benevolent Zamindars, gradually lost hold of the land they once owned, still continue the Puja as a part of their centuries old tradition. The family direct bloodline relates to the Luminaries like Annada Shankar Ray whose father incidentally had shifted base to Dhenkanal, also in Orissa following a family feud.The Mahashays were famous for benevolent activities.

The Village also conducts the "Raksha Kali" Puja which was initially conducted by the Mahashay family but later converted to "Sarbajanin" by handing over to the villagers as a very large number of animal sacrifices were started by the surrounding villagers during the Puja, which did not go well with the Roy family.The 500-year-old Durga Puja of the Mahashays is still being organised by the Roy family.

The Village has a healthy mix of population of all castes and is generally peaceful.

Sindur Khela

Sindur Khela (Bengali: সিঁদুর খেলা), literally meaning 'vermillion game', is a Bengali Hindu tradition where women smear each other with sindur on Vijayadashami, the last day of the Durga Puja. On the day of the Vijayadashami after the conclusion of the ritual worship, married Bengali Hindu women apply sindur on the forehead and feet of the goddess and offer sweets to her. Then they put sindur on each other's faces and offer sweets to each other.

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