About Durga Puja
Durga Puja to Bengalis
Durga Puja, the most celebrated festival of the Bengalis, rejoices at the return of the Goddess Durga to her parental home.
Durga, according to scriptures, does not belong to the Vedic pantheon, but has found mention much later. She is also known as the Adi Shakti, or the Supreme Being. She came to be known as Durga after killing the demon Durgo or Durgam. She is also called Durga because she brings an end to all forms of misery.
Story of Durga
The most well known story of Durga is the one of her defeating the demon Mahishasura, who could not be killed by any male because of a boon he had received from Lord Brahma. Knowing that the Gods could not renege on the boon they had granted, Mahishasura fought the gods and forced them out of their abode. The Gods and Goddesses then appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. From the Shakti of the Gods emerged Durga whom the Gods bestowed with weapons to defeat the Mahishasura. Sitting atop a Mountain Lion, she defeated the demon and brought back peace.
Forms of Durga Puja
There are two forms of Puja associated with Durga: Basanti Puja in spring (basanta) and Sharadiya Puja in autumn (sharat).
Basanti Puja is performed in the first fortnight of Chaitra (March-April) and Saradiya Puja in the first fortnight of Aswin or Kartik (October-November). The origins of Basanti Puja dates back to the time of King Surath, who had lost his kingdom. Advised by a wise man to worship Durga, he did so and had his kingdom restored.
Saradiya Puja derives from the worship of the goddess performed by Ramachandra of Ayodhy in autumn.Invoking the goddess to seek her blessings for his fight against Ravana, Ramachandra performed her puja in Autumn. Since then the autumnal Puja has come to be known as Akalbodhon or Untimely Invocation.
Days of Durga Puja
On the occasion of Durga Puja, the goddess is invoked on sasthi, the sixth day of Aswin or Kartik. Puja is offered on Shaptami, Astami, Navami or MahaNavami, or the seventh, eighth and ninth days respectively. The image/idol of the goddess is immersed in water on the final day or Dashami.
Depiction of the Goddess
Goddess Durga is usually depicted with ten hands, though she may also be represented with four, eight, sixteen, eighteen or twenty hands. She is Triyambake or has three eyes. On the occasion of Durga Puja, images of the goddess are made of straw and clay. The images are then painted, either light golden, bright gold or red. In the past a few families, including the Tagore family of Jorasanko, used to attire the icon in costly saris and adorn it with gold ornaments before immersing it with all its finery. Puja is at times performed without an image of the goddess but with a durpun (a shiny, reflective metal piece, usually of brass) or with a book, a picture, a trishul (trident), arrow, kharga (falchion).
Kumari (virgin) puja forms part of the Durga Puja celebrations and is observed on the astami, or eighth day. On this occasion, a young girl of eight or nine years is dressed like Durga and worshipped as a living replica of the goddess. Dasami, the tenth and final day, is a public holiday. Newspapers bring out special supplements and the radio and television channels arrange special programmes on the occasion.