Origin of Durga puja

Durga Puja, also called Durgotsava and Navaratri, is an annual Hindu or Bengali Hindu festival in the Indian subcontinent that reveres the goddess Durga. It is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, typically September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Durga Puja is a multi-day festival that features elaborate temple and stage decorations (pandals), scripture recitation, performance arts, revelry and processions.

Durga Puja festival marks the battle of goddess Durga with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura, and her ensuing victory. Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of Good over Evil. Originally, it was also in part a harvest festival that marks the Goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation. The Durga Puja festival dates coincide with Vijayadashami (Dussehra) observed by other traditions of Hinduism, where the Ram Lila is enacted, depicting the victory of Rama over the demon king Ravana,with effigies of demon Ravana are burnt. gods and goddesses appealed to VISHNU for help. On Vishnu's advice, each god gave up one of his qualities and weapons to Durga. Armed with their weapons and imbued with their qualities, Durga fought and killed Mahisasur. Consequently she is also known as Mahisamardini. There are detailed discussions about Durga in Kalivilasatantra, Kalikapurana, Devibhagavata, Mahabhagavata, Vrhannandikeshvarapurana, Durgabhaktitarabgini, Durgotsavaviveka, Durgotsavatattva.

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) as children of Durga (Parvati). 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. 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, the communities start a procession carrying the colourful clay statues to a river or ocean and immerse them, as a form of goodbye and her return to divine cosmos and Mount Kailash.

Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga Puja, while historical records suggest royal and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.

Durga is an ancient deity of Hinduism, according to archeological and textual evidence available. However, the origins of Durga Puja are unclear and undocumented. 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 the attributes of a Durga Puja.

The word Durga, and related terms appear in the Vedic literature, however, the description therein lacks the legendary details about Her or about Durga Puja that is found in later Hindu literature.

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. Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna are characters of the Mahabharata who invoke hymns to Durga. 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.

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.

According to scholars, 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. 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. From the medieval period up through present day, the Durga Puja has celebrated the Goddess with performing arts and as a social event, while maintaining the religious worship.