Durga Puja or Dusshera is one of the important and widely celebrated festivals in India. Among all the Hindu religion festivals, Durga Puja is the prominent one and has become a part of our socio-cultural life.Different classes throughout the country has its own traditions and ways to celebrate Durga Puja. The Dusshera period is also regarded as an auspicious time for starting new ventures. Celebrated in the month of September-October every year, it is also popularly known as Navaratri.
Durga Puja or Dusshera comes from a Sanskrit word which literally means ‘Remover of the Bad Fate’. The mythological reason behind the worshipping of Devi Durga can be traced from the period, when Mahishasura (the buffalo demon) dethroned Indra (the king) from heaven creating disquiet among all the Gods. The wrath of the Shiva, the Vishnu and the Bramha (the three Gods of the Universe) and other Gods took the form of a ‘Jyoti’ from the pick of which a young woman was emerged out possessing a face from the light of Shiva, arms from the Vishnu, legs from the Bramha, a lion as her mount from Himavat (the god of Himalayas) and the bodily parts from other Gods to conquer the demon. Devi Durga engaged in the battlefield with Mahisasura, pierced him with the sharp spear, thus putting an end to his devastating terror. Henceforth she has been worshipped by all the Gods in heaven as the Adishakti or ‘Primordial Power’.
Basically, Durgapuja is a famous festival of Eastern-India. The states of West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand and Tripura engage in a five-day celebration of puja to rejuvenate and rejoice. Apart from the states Duga Puja is a well-known festival in other states also. From Kashmir to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and even Karnataka and Kerala people widely celebrate this ever joyful festival that comes once in a year. Some of the overseas countries like, Nepal, Bangladesh, United States, Australia and Europe, where Dusshera is organized and celebrated by the Indian community people.
Being the biggest puja celebrated among the East-Indian people, particularly Bengalis, the entire process of worshipping Goddess Durga includes a six day celebration starting from Mahalaya to Bijoya Dashami. But prior to that the idol creation of Devi Durga is also a pious event for which the clay is collected from the banks of the River Ganga on Akshaya Tritiya for the creation of idols. Shahsthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Astami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dashami; each day has its own rituals and procedures followed to seek the blessings of Maa Duraga. 15 days from the new moon to the full moon are regarded as auspicious to perform various pujas.
According to Hindu calendar, Mahalaya is the day, when we remember our ancestors and offer puja for peace of their souls. Coloring the eyes of idols starts from Mahalaya as it is depicted as the starting point of Durga Puja. The process is called Chakshudaan. From that auspicious day, the puja actually begins. Various shlokas are chanted during the day of Shasthi to Dashmi. Generally mothers keep a fast on Shasthi for the well being of their children. Lot many puja items, decorative items, clothes and foods are offered to Devi Duraga. A stalked green coconut, sugar, honey, curd and various types of fruits are offered and Maa Duraga is clad in a red saree with flowers, turmeric, gold and silver, copper and iron ornaments. This process is followed during the six consecutive days with different rituals and offerings. On the day of Ashtami, Sandhi-Puja is held and everyone keep a vegetarian diet. On Navami, Devi Durga stays the last night in her father’s home for she finally goes back to her husband’s house on Dashami. This is the day when Lord Rama conquered the devil Ravana by worshipping Maa Durga. On the remembrance of that day, effigy of Ravana is burnt everywhere to celebrate the victory of good over the evil power and that is the day of Bijoya Dashami. The sentiments of people is deeply attached to this puja as With fruits, garments, flowers and chants people bid a tearful farewell to Goddess Durga waiting for her arrival in the coming year.
Various forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped in Dusshera, which is also known as Navaratri. Navaratri literally means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit. Nine forms of Mahisashura-Mardini or Devi Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, Bhawani, Mookambika are worshipped with devotion and fervor during the nine nights of Navaratri. Each three day of worship brings us different aspects of blessings from Devi Durga. In the first three days, in the form of kali, Godess Durga she destroys all the ill intentions and impurities within us. In the second three days, she is worshipped as Laksmi to shower her blessings to bring us wealth and luxury. Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom blesses us with all the success in life in the concluding three days of Navaratri.
Besides, prayers and devotion for Goddess Durga, this festival is also an occasion of food and dance. Various reciepies and delicious foods are prepared by the ladies on this auspicious occasion. Badam Kheer, Besan Burfi, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, Moong Dal Halwa, Rabdi, and Sandesh are the mouth watering sweets prepared during Dusshera. Aloo Kachori, Gol papdi, Hara Bhara kabab, Imarti, Kachori, Khaman Dhokla, Kulfi, Mathi, Murukku, Paneer Pakora, Papri chaat are some other reciepies that adds extra colors to the celebration. For those who keep a fast and have a vegetarian diet, Panchamrut, Sweet lassi, Aloo chaat, Apple Rabri, Arbi-Yam Oondhiya, Jeera Aloo, Kaddu ki sabzi, Kele ke kofte, Kaju Burfi, Kuttu ke pakore, Makhaane ki kheer, Mango rabri, Sabudana kheer, Sabudana Khichdi, Sabudana vada, Singhare ke Pakore, Til- Khoya Laddoo, Vrat ke chawa are made for them.
It is said that in Hindu religion, it is their culture and tradition which keep them intact with each other in creating a healthy social atmosphere. The various rituals and customs of Durga Puja reflect the colors of our everyday life and at the same time bind us with god with utmost divinity.