Durga Puja also known as Durgotsava or Sharadotsav is an Hindu festival which is dedicated to worship of Hindu goddess Durga.
The five days of the festival are Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Vijayadashami.
The festival is celebrated from the sixth to tenth day of bright lunar fortnight (shukla paksha) in the month of Ashvin.
Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura and acts as a symbol of victory of Good over Evil. The festival honors the powerful female force (shakti) in the Universe.
Durga Puja Celebrations in India :
Durga Puja is celebrated in many Indian states, especially in eastern part of the country. It is a five day annual holiday in Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura and West Bengal.
Durga Puja is celebrated in a grand manner in West Bengal, especially in Kolkata, where the celebrations are similar to Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mumbai.
Apart from eastern India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
Apart from India, Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal where 91% of the population is Hindu.
Nowadays, many Assamese and Bengali cultural organisations arrange for Durgotsab or Durga Puja in countries like United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others.
During Durga Puja, apart from goddess Durga, Lord Shiva, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya are also worshipped.
Mahalaya and Mahishasuramardini – Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi Path) :
Mahalaya Amavasya is also referred to as an integral part of the Durga Puja festival. The mood of the Durga Puja celebrations starts off on this day with Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour radio broadcast for which people wake up at 4 in the morning on Mahalaya day. On this day every Bengali listens to the enchanting voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns from the scriptures from the Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi Path).
Durga Puja Celebrations :
As told earlier, the celebrations of Durga Puja are similar to that of Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
On the occasion of Mahalaya, goddess Durga is invited to come to the earth. The eyes are drawn on the idols of the Goddess on this day, in an auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan
Six days later on Mahasasthi, the final preparations for the Puja are made complete.
On the next day i.e., Maha Saptami. the idols of Goddess Durga are installed and a ritual is performed to invoke her holy presence into them. This ritual is called Pran Pratisthan.
Prayers are offered to the Goddess every day during the festival, and she is worshiped in her various forms.
Worship is concluded on Maha Navami with a maha aarti, which marks the end of the important rituals and prayers and on the next day i.e., Vijayadashami or Dussehra, the idols of goddess Durga are taken to nearby water bodies for immersion. This ceremony is know as Durga Visarjan and it marks the returns of goddess Durga to her husband’s abode on mount Kailash.
Durga Puja Celebrations in Kolkata :
The huge and artistic pandals, magnificient idols of goddess Durga, people dancing on the beats of Dhaki (drum) and evenings surrounded with the divine tunes of Goddess Durga aarti, streets filled with people who come to admire the statues of Goddess Durga, eat, and celebrate is what is an integral part of Durga Puja, expecially in Kolkata.
Durga Puja 2016 Dates :
In 2016, Durga Puja will be celebrated from 7th to 11th October 2016.