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The True Spirit Puja

Festivals are an inseparable part of every society, which makes people rooted in their culture. It is a way to express the rich traditions and heritage of our community.

People of West Bengal are known for celebrating the myriad of festivals with exuberance and enthusiasm. We in Bengali say, “baro mashe tero parbon”( thirteen festivals in twelve months) which indicates galore of festivity in the state. The festive celebration in Bengal rejuvenates the spirit of the devotees.

The reverberating sound of Dhaka, chanting of priests and the blooming of shiuli flower heralds the arrival of Durga Puja in Bengal.

When flowers are in bloom, Maa Durga descends on earth to visit her family whom she protected from the demon Mahishasura. In Bengal Durga Puja is celebrated with great religious zeal and fervour. The festival is a celebration of feminine victory over buffalo head demon Mahishasura. In Hindu mythology, it is a belief that Maa Durga was created in Heaven as Shakti from the divine power of the Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to slay the demon king Mahishasura.

The celebration begins with the auspicious day of Mahalaya. On the day of Mahalaya, every Bengali wakes up early to listen to mantras called ‘Mahishasura Mardini’. It is believed that the mantras invoke the Goddess Durga to arrive at her maternal home the earth, with her four children Saraswati, Lakshmi, Ganesh and Kartik and ward off the evil. The day has its significance which marks the end of ‘Pitru Paksha’ and the beginning of ‘ Devi Paksha’.

During Durga Puja, the pandals of Bengal attract visitors from all over the country. People of various social background explore stunning pandals and idols. The innovative theme and creativity at display bustle the state with vigour and festive vibe. Fancy light work, exquisite chandeliers, interior decor and the vibrant ambience of the state during puja will amaze you with its beauty!

Durga Puja is a ten day festival of which the last five are auspicious. The celebration begins with full gusto from Shasti(6th day) and ends with Visarjan(10th day). On the day of Shasti pandals are inaugurated in every corner of the state, the face of Maaa Durga is unveiled and the priest perform the Bodhan ceremony to welcome Maa Durga. However, it is said that Lord Ram, the worshipper of Goddess Durga, rescued Sita from Ravana on this day.

From Shasti people decked up in beautiful attire visit various pandals to seek blessings from Maa Durga and enjoy the true spirit of puja.

On Saptami, Nabapatrika snan is performed by giving a ceremonial bath(in the sacred river Ganga) to nine plants which are tied together. It is then draped in a red border sari with vermilion or sindoor is smeared on leaves and placed beside Lord Ganesh implying his bride. The word ‘Nava’ means nine while Patrika ‘signifies plant. The nine plants are a manifestation of Goddess Durga which is symbolic as it represents Mother Nature.

On Ashtami(8th day)Kumari Puja takes place followed by Sandhi Puja. In kumari Puja, pre-pubescent girls are worshipped as an incarnation of Maa Durga. Sandhi Puja is performed at the juncture when Asthami tithi concludes and Navami tithi begins. It is a forty-eight minute-long puja and the arrangements are usually grand, which requires one hundred and eight lotuses and one hundred and earthen pots, to begin with. As per legend, it is the most crucial period of all the rituals as Maa Durga comes in chamunda avatar to slay the Buffalo head demon Mahishasura. Sandhi Puja is performed with great devotion to commemorate the victory of feminine force over evil.

Navami or the Maha Navami(9th day) marks the ending of customary rituals with ‘Maha Aarti’. Navami bhog is offered to the Goddess Durga and later among the devotees. Dhunchuni dance is one one the most awaited activity of Durga Puja. It is a fun-filled ritual performed by both men and women. People take clay pots, filled with burning charcoal, in their hands and mouth and dance to the beat of dhaak. Vijaya Dashmi is the last day of Durga Puja. The celebration ends with sindoor khela(married women smear each other with vermilion) and the immersion of Maa Durga in the holy river Ganga. The visarjan is symbolic as it signifies that Maa Durga returns to Lord Shivatherefore it is auspicious day for married women and they play with sindoor, a ritual for their happy marital life.

Bijoya marks the end of Durga Puja celebration. People greet each other and distribute sweets. Moreover, people believe that Bijoya marks the victory of good over evil.

However, the grandiose with which Durga Puja is celebrated makeit one of the biggest festival celebrated in India.

About the author:

I am Farjana Basir currently pursuing Master’s in English. I am a private tutor who loves to interact with children. I like to pen down my thoughts and use my abilities for greater good.

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