The Durga Puja which is a nine day festival starts with Mahalaya falls in the initial phase of the waxing moon in the month of Ashwin. The festival is celebrated by the Hindus with great pomp and fervor throughout the country. The main highlight of the Durga Puja festival is offering of prayers to the ancestors at the river banks which are popularly known by the name, Tarpan. On the first day, Mahasaptami, the idol of the goddess is unveiled and the Puja continues for three days, on Mahasaptami, Mahaashtami, and Mahanavami. Durga Puja constitutes long, complicated and detailed Puja procedures and is conducted by priests. The main pujas starts on Mahasaptami and lasts till Mahanavami. Read further to know about the nine day Durga Puja festival, its dates, rituals associated and their significance.
Falling in the autumn months of September or October, the dates of Durga Puja is decided mainly as per the Hindu religious calendar. According to this calendar, Durga puja falls in the month of Ashwin and lasts for nine days. In 2015 the Mahalaya will be celebrated on 12th of October.
Though, Durga Puja lasts for nine days, the celebrations actually begins on the sixth day, Mahashashti, the day on which goddess Durga is invoked to the mortal world. Visiting the earth accompanied by her children, it is believed that Maa Durga showers wealth and prosperity upon her devotees. On this day, people unveil the idol of goddess Durga with huge fanfare and gusto. Following this, rituals such as Kalaparambho, Bodhon, Amontron and Adibas are performed. In 2015 Mahashashti falls on the 19th of October.
On Mahasaptami, people offer Puja to Durga Maa. Following this Kolabou or Nabapatrika is provided an early dawn ritual bath. This is an ancient ritual in which nine types of plants are worshipped which is considered as the symbol of the goddess Durga. This year Mahasaptami will be celebrated on the 20th of October.
Mahaastami starts with the recital of Sanskrit slokas in community pandals with thousands of devotees offering prayers and Anjali to the goddess. Worshipping of little girls or 'Kumari Puja' is one of the main rituals of Mahaashtami. The day also witnesses Sandhi Puja. It extends from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami to the first 24 minutes of Navami. It marks the perfect inter liking of Mahaashtami and Mahanavami. Mahaashtami in 2015 will be celebrated on the 21st of October.
Mahanavami is the most important day of Durga Puja. This Navami Durga Puja commences after the Sandhi Puja. Navami bhog is offered to the goddess and is later distributed among the devotees as Prasad. Mahanavami is on October 22 in 2015.
On the last day of the festival called Dashami, goddess is given a tearful farewell. The idol of the goddess is given a grand farewell as it is carried in a procession and immersed in a river or a pond. It is a huge event throughout the country especially in West Bengal and the day is also known by the name, Vijayadashami. This year Vijayadashami will be celebrated on October 23.