Introduction: Durga Puja literally means ‘Worship of Goddess Durga’. This festival is also known as ‘Durgotsava’ or ‘Sharadotsav’.
The Durga Puja is the grandest festival and the greatest event in the religious life of the Hindus living in West Bengal. People worship the Goddess Durga with great pomp and devotion every year.
It generally takes place in the month of Ashwin when the Goddess Durga and her attendant deities, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik, are worshipped with offerings of flowers, bael leaves, rice, banana, sweet meats, coconuts and other fruits.
Durgotsava: The word Durgotsava is a combination of two words, i.e. Durga and Utsav. Durga means ‘Goddess Durga’ and ‘Utsav’ means “celebration, joyous occasion, or festival”. Hence, Durgotsava means the ‘the joyous occasion to celebrate the festival of Goddess Durga’.
When is Durga Puja celebrated? Durga Puja is celebrated in the month of Ashwin (September-October) every year.
Bunch of festivals: Durga Puja is not a single festival; it is actually a bunch of festivals celebrated in six days as Mahalaya, Maha Shashti, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami (Durga Ashtami), Maha Navami and Vijaya Dashami (10th day of Victory).
Goddess Durga – Mainfestation of Sakti or the power of God: Hindus look upon Goddess Durga as a manifestation of Sakti or the power of God. She assumes different forms at different times to destroy the Danavas or the workers of evil. One of these, the Mahishasura, was was a terrible demon and the dwellers of heaven knew not how to get rid of him. The Goddess Durga, armed with all dazzling weapons and accompanied by her favorite animal (Vahan) the lion marched against the ferocious Danava. The contest was a terrible victory that marks the epoch of universal rejoicing and festivity amongst the Hindus.
Who celebrates Durga Puja festival? Hindus celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. This is the most important festival for the people of West Bengal and Tripura. Durga Puja is such a great and significant festival that people enjoy a five day annual holiday.
Other than West Bengal and Tripura, Durga puja is widely celebrated across Delhi, Manipur, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and other states of India.
Durga Puja is an important festival for the Hindus and people all over the world celebrate the festival. This festival is widely celebrated in Nepal, where majority of the population are Hindus. Hindus staying in Bangladesh, United States, Australia, Germany Singapore, etc also celebrate the Durga Puja.
Few days before Durga Puja: Before the arrival of the Puja, the houses are cleansed and washed. Everything is then kept in its proper place.
How people celebrate Durga Puja? The Puja is spent in high spirit and gaiety, and happy is he, who can take part in it with a whole mind. During the occasion of Durga Puja festival, besides the worship of Goddess Durga, Worship of Shiva (Husband of Goddess Parvati), Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikeya are also seen as Goddess Durga is one of the aspects of Goddess Parvati.
All people, rich and poor, high and low, enjoy the divine festival with piety and joy. Besides the religious passion, there is a strong social togetherness that makes people yearns for this great annual event. That is why we find the community worship spreading annually. Various associations, clubs, and townships organize large Puja events every year. Now-a-days, it has become a custom among people in general of different areas of cities and towns to hold a joint worship of Goddess Durga. The Durga Puja celebration includes displaying the decoration of Pandals artistically. This is an occasion for social get-together where men, women, and children work together. Thus, the event of Durga Puja contributes to the growth of the feeling of the spirit of brotherhood and unity.
Description of the image: Durga is the Goddess of Power. She has ten hands. With one hand, she thrusts a spear into Mahisusura, a buffalo demon. She holds various weapons on other hands. She places her feet on the back of her carrier, a lion and on the shoulder of the demon.
Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, and Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, stand by her two sides.
Kartik, the handsome God of Strength, and Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of Triumph remains in their sides.
Account of worship: The Puja commences on the sixth day of the full moon in the month of Aswin when the Goddess Durga is invoked at night. Then the worship continues for the next three days in daytime on the seventh, eighth and ninth lunar days of the full moon.
On the tenth lunar day, called the Vijaya Dashami, Durga is worshipped for Her immersion, and Her image is immersed in the nearest river or canal or tank.
Generally, the image is carried in procession through streets and rivers. People of all classes, men and women, old and young, go to see the immersion. After the ceremony is over, the function of Vijaya Greetings is done among all men who embrace one another and exchange their good wishes and blessings.
Durga Puja festival has also become the festival of reunion for friends and families. This celebration continues for last ten days with feast and worship; out of which last four days are the main events.
Traders: The Puja is also a pleasant occasion to the tradesman. They make the richest display of their goods and fancy articles. People buy new clothes, dress, rich apparel, essences, and other valuables. In fact, what the tradesman gains on the occasion of the puja gives him his livelihood and comfort for half the months of the year.
Significance and reason behind Durga Puja celebration: Durga Puja festival signifies that no matter how powerful the evil forces are, the ultimate victory will always be in the hands of the virtuous. This day marks the victory of Goddess Durga (good) over the Demon Mahishasura (evil). Hence, like many other festivals, this festival also shows the domination of good over bad.
Durga Puja has a very positive effect upon the minds of men and women, and the society at large. The poor widow, the bereaved mother, and the orphan boy, shake off for the time being their cause of sorrow or melancholy and join in the universal rejoicing, being led to believe that it is not proper to lament when the mother of the universe is amongst them. On the day of the Bijoya, after the images are immersed into the river the people fall to embracing one another forgetting all past misunderstandings. This is certainly a sight well worthy of being taken notice of by the preachers of philanthropy or universal brotherhood.
Teachings: The main teachings of the Durga Puja festival is that people should not let their evil or negative aspect win over their good or positive aspect.
On this occasion, in many places, large statues of evil demon Ravana are burnt with crackers.
Conclusion: Durga Puja is a ceremony of great joy and merriment for all people of our land. Almost all of them put on new clothes. Schools and colleges, courts and offices remain closed, and those who reside elsewhere, come home to enjoy the festival.
The people in general partake of ceremonial meals offered on the happy occasion.
Also read: Durga Puja in Wikipedia