Durga puja is the most awaited festival for the Hindus especially in West Bengal, which situated in the eastern province of India. The puja involves many intricate rituals. Also known as Durgotsav, this festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga, the most powerful of all Hindu Goddesses. The people of West Bengal share the belief that "Maa Durga" descends on earth on the sixth day of the puja and the people welcome her with great devotion and fanfare. During the festival pandals are set up in every nook and corner, worshipping the idol of the Goddess. Many of the big pandals compete with each other and try to outdo each other in terms of decoration and artwork. They spend plenty of money in the designs of the pandals as well as the idol. Usually, the puja is organized by the local clubs or communities, who take donations from the people. The money thus collected is spent on the idol and the decoration of the pandals. Every year many of the clubs create history by building something innovative and awe-inspiring.
Durga Puja Customs & Rituals
On this day, Goddess Durga is believed to step on the earth with her four children. Her devotees leave no stone unturned in the preparations to give her a grand welcome. Amidst the beats of dhak, the ritual of unveiling the face of the idol of Maa Durga is carried out. Following which, the customs of Bondhon, Amontron and Adhibas take place.
When the first rays of the Sun touch the earth, nine different plants would be brought together and dressed, each one representing a Goddess, which is called "Nabapatrika" or "Kolabou". The turmeric plant signifies Goddess Durga, who is dressed in a yellow, red-bordered silk sari. Then the "Nabapatrika" is placed beside Lord Ganesha and the priests conduct the worship.
The day after Saptami, starts with the recitation of sacred hymns from the scriptures in Sanskrit. Earlier, buffaloes used to be sacrificed owing to the legend of the demon "Mahisasura", who was half human and half buffalo. However, later the tradition came to an end. Usually a bottle gourd or some other vegetable is taken as "Mahisasura" and is sacrificed. Another important attraction is the "Kumari Puja", in which Goddess Durga is worshipped in her virgin form. Girls aged between one and sixteen who are not married are decked like Goddess Durga and their puja is conducted.
The ninth day is considered the most important of all. The day starts after the "Sandhi" puja, which is performed after Mahaashtami and at the commencement of Navami. A "Maha-aarti" is conducted which marks the end of all the rituals of Durga puja for that year. The rest of the day and evening is spent in pandal hopping, merrymaking and other functions.
After a week of celebration, the Goddess finally, ascends to her abode. The people bid her adieu with sad hearts. Just like the welcome, a grand farewell is conducted. The idol of Goddess Durga is then immersed in the nearby river or pond.
The Durga puja customs are carried with immense passion and devotion and a state of fiesta overwhelms the hearts of all. It's not only the Hindus who take part in the puja celebrations, rather many people from all major religions indulge in merriments during the festival.