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Durga Puja in West Bengal
Puja the divine power
Durga Puja, is celebrated to worship Shakti - the divine power. It is celebrated throughout
India, but with great grandeur in Kolkata. It commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon
Mahishasura. The familiar sound of dhak, dhunuchi nachh, gives a familiar tug at every Bengali heart. According to the Hindu mythology,
Durga is the all-powerful almighty goddess. Once a year, in the month of
Ashwin, she comes home with her four children Ganesha (श्री गणेश),
Laxmi (लक्ष्मी), Karttik and
Saraswati (सरस्वती) and enjoys all the love and attention. This
year Durga Puja being celebrated from October 20 (Shashthi) to October 24, 2012 (Dashami - Vijya).
In her iconographic representation she is flanked by Saraswati, the goddess who removes ignorance, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth,
Ganesha who fulfils all desires and Kartikeya, the god of war and purity. The four deities accompanying the Mother Goddess suggest a
holistic approach to divinity and the need to see disparate things in a harmonious blend. The images of the lion, peacock, swan, lotus,
veena and mouse all reflect the creative mystery of the divine design and their necessary coexistence. The vanquished
buffalo- demon signifies that vile enemies lurking within and outside have to be recognised as a part of reality and subdued for survival and progress.
Durga Puja the supreme Mother
According to the Atharva Veda, Durga is the supreme Mother. She is the primal cause of this universal flux.
Durga is revered with bhakti, with puja and archana and through the specific anushtthanas. Markandeya Purana, Devi Bhagwatam and the Tantra
Shastras also praise the Goddess Durga the Adi Sakti. Durga is the beauty of Vishnu, creativity of Brahma and the tandava of
Lord Shiva (शिव) . Followers of Shakti believe that in her fierce form Durga is Kali.
Goddess Durga is also called
Uma, “light”; Gauri, “yellow or brilliant”; Parvati, “the mountaineer” and Jagatmata, “the-mother-of-the-world” in her milder
guise. The terrible emanations are Durga “the inaccessible”; Kali, “he black”; Chandi, “the fierce”; and Bhairavi, “the terrible.”
Durga, a beautiful warrior seated upon a tiger, was the first appearance of the goddess. The circumstance of her miraculous
arrival was the tyranny of the monster-demon Mahishasur, who had acquired invincible strength.
The gods were afraid of this water-buffalo bull because neither Vishnu nor Shiva could prevail against him. It seemed that the joint energy of Shakti was only
capable of vanquishing mahisha, and so it was the ten-armed Durga who went out to do battle. She went to battle on her ferocious mount
lion, armed with the weapons given to her by the other gods. Durga is one of the angry and aggressive aspects of the goddess
Shakti, whose role in Hindu mythology was to fight and conquer demons and also personify
the Shakti or female aspect of any male deity. In the battle, she fought and killed the evil Mahishasura and restored heaven to the gods.
Since then the goddess is invoked for protection from the powers of evil. Her literary references are chiefly the
Ramayana and Mahabharata, and Puranic texts, and she is mentioned by name in Vedic literature. In general, Durga is regarded in northern India as the gentle bride
epitomizing family unity while in southern India she is revered more in her warrior aspect.
Durga Puja Celeberation
Durga comes to earth on the seventh day after the autumn new moon. Seven days before her arrival starts the
Devipaksha. The day is being observed as Mahalaya, the day of invocation. In the dark night of
Amabasya (October 15, 2012), people pray to goddess Durga to arrive in the earth to ward off all evils. On the dawn of
Mahalaya, homes in Bengal resonate with the immortal verses of the Chandipath.
It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi , Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha
Nabami and Bijoya Dashami. On the Bijoya Dashami day (this year on
24th October 2012) she starts on her journey back to Kailash with her husband, Lord Shiva.
Generally Durga Puja, the five-day autumn festival beginning with 'Shashthi' and
ending with 'Dashami' (Dussehra), is being organised with grandeur at the community puja
pandals, where idols of the goddess and her four children are installed and
worshipped amid much fanfare. Mahanavami, or the ninth lunar day, is the concluding day of Durga Puja
rituals. The main Mahanavami puja began after the end of Sandhi Puja held at the confluence of Mahashtami and Mahanavami around Friday midnight.
Apart from West Bengal, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and in some parts of India including Delhi,
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal and Bangladesh. Nowadays, many
non-residential Bengali cultural organizations arrange Durga Puja in the countries like United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany,
France, Kuwait etc.
In Kolkata alone more than Three thousand pandals are set up,
to celebrate Durga Puja. The city is adorned with lights. People from all over the country visit the city at this time, and every night is
one mad carnival where thousands of people go 'pandal-hopping' with their
friends and family. Traffic becomes a nightmare, and indeed, most people
abandon their vehicles to travel by foot after a point. Many attractive colourful
pandal, glorious "Protima", and colorful lighting create joy for visitors.
During the puja period, visitors come here from all over the world.
Durga, a beautiful warrior seated upon a tiger, was the first appearance of the goddess.
Goddess Durga went to battle on her ferocious mount lion, armed with the weapons given to her by the other gods. In the
battle, she fought and killed the evil Mahishasura and restored heaven to the gods.
Shah Rukh Khan celebrates Durga Puja in Kolkata in 2008 with dhaak and dhunuchi.
Durga Puja immersed in the Hoogly river
The idols will be immersed in the rivers and ponds on Mahadashami Day
This year Dashami - Vijya on 24th October 2012. .As huge crowds thronged the numerous Durga Puja pandals in
Kolkata, devotees got an opportunity to worship the goddess while cruising along the Hooghly River around Kolkata
According to Kolkata Police sources, Durga Puja is being celebrated at more than 3,000 venues this year.
Idols immersed on Dashami as Durga Puja ends on October
Durga Puja eco-friendly environment
Several pujas in Kolkata have gone by focusing on the
simple dos and don’ts that go into creating a safe, eco-friendly environment for celebration.
For example, Goliath Maniktala Chaltabagan Lohapatti Durgapuja in its pandals
have used two alternative sources of energy, wind and solar power. There is even a tiny “windmill” on top of the
pandal. Lake Gardens People's Association, which gave out a 'green' message with terracotta idols and murals painted with vegetable dye, was also a big draw.
Durga Puja organisers have been encouraged to use solar power and LED lights to illuminate their pandals while eco-friendly paints worth more
than Rs. 3 lakhs have been doled out free of cost to hundreds of artisans making Durga idols in the city.
Communal harmony in Durga Puja
Durga Puja is as important for Hindus as it is for
Muslims in Ranch. Members of both communities join hands to celebrate the homecoming of Durga at Karbala Chowk, an area having a population of about 15,000 Muslims.
Even the blasts on the eve of Durga Puja has not changed the festivities in Tripura, which has a unique tradition of Hindus and Muslims celebrating puja together.
Kolkata's oldest Durga puja
The oldest Durga pujo in Kolkata turned 400 on Saturday, the 16th October, 2010. It is older than Agra’s Taj Mahal by 43 years and is organised by one of the oldest families
of the city who once ruled over most part of which is now called as Kolkata. However, the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family maintains a low profile about the
feat. The family’s Barisha Aatchala pujo was founded by Lakshmikanta Majumder in 1610
when Mughal emperor Jehangir was ruling Delhi. Mughal general Man Singh handed over parts of the city to Majumder as jaigir
(property) and the Roy Chowdhury title to the family during his raids of Bengal.
Since then there has been no break in tradition or rituals of this
pujo. “Our family is the only family in Bengal to have Sakta, Shaiva and Vaishnav (the three rituals of the Hindu religion),” says president, Sabarna Roy
Chowdhury Paribar Parishad, Devarshi Roy Chowdhury. Even the 37th generation of the family intends to carry the family’s legacy further.
Durga Puja in Bangladesh
Thousands of Hindu devotees joined the festivities in pre-dominantly Muslim Bangladesh to mark the end of the
five- day Durga Puja, which culminated with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga. Tens of thousands of people participated
in the 'Dashami Bihita Puja' or 'Bijoya Dashami Puja' marking the end of the five-day festival
President Pranab's Durga Puja
President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday greeted the nation on the occasion of Dussehra."On the joyous occasion of Dussehra, I have
great pleasure in extending warm greetings and good wishes to all my fellow citizens," said the president in a message.
The Durga Puja rituals performed by Pranab Mukherjee won't change, but certain other things have definitely
changed in the President's ancestral village this year.
By Friday, the entire stretch of road from Kirnahar to Miriti as well as
Mukherjee Bhawan had been cordoned off by securitymen for the President's arrival on Saturday. He will land in Kolkata at 2.20pm in a
special flight and straightaway head for Mirati in a helicopter. Chief
minister Mamata Banerjee will be present at the airport. "I will receive the President," she said.
The President's son and Jangipur MP Abhijit Mukherjee, however, assured
that security concerns won't affect the Puja rites, which will be held
according to tradition. "Arrangements are almost complete," he said.