Festivals and Celebrations Durga Puja
Durga Puja is performed during the autumn season every year. For the Hindus, it is the greatest festival. The puja is held for the three consecutive days: the Saptami, the Ashtami, and the Navami; and on the fourth day, the Dashami, the image is immersed in the water of a tank or a river.
The image is worshipped along with those of other deities like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, and Kartikeya. The frame, on which the said images are installed, contains also the image of Asura (demon) and the lion, the vehicle of goddess Durga. There is also a rat at the feet of Ganesh. There is a Chal-Chitra which is a circular canvas of mat containing paintings of heavenly scenes placed at the back of the idols. The entire frame of the gods and goddesses is placed on a raised platform or altar made of wooden plunks.
The mandap is a decorated pavilion with beautiful illumination. Every evening, the priest performs aarti or greets the goddess by waiving lamps and incense in accompaniment of the beating of drums, while the puja (worship) is held.
During this great festival, the Hindus buy new clothes for their near and dear ones. They want to forget their past differences with their rivals or enemies. After the immersion, on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami, the Hindus embrace one another as a token of love and affection and distribute sweets among all. Durga Puja is nowadays more a festival than a religious rite. Sometimes the non-Hindus are also found to participate in the festival as a social gesture. – Durga Puja is more popular in Bengal. It is performed with more pomp and grandeur there than in any other state of India. People from neighbouring states come to Kolkata during the time, in order to witness the attractive puja pavilion. Durga Puja is also held in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and other important cities and towns of India, as also the villages.
Durga Puja was first performed in Bengal by a Zamindar (landlord). Then it came to be popular with the introduction of the sarvojanin pujas performed with the joint effort of about twelve Zamindars, and hence it is called Marwari (twelve years or friends). Nowadays, Durga Puja is also held at London and New York, where the Indians perform the puja every year.
Mother Goddess Durga is considered as the most powerful goddess who is the bestower of strength, prosperity, and all the best gifts in life. So the devotees pray to Her for various boons. She killed the demon king Mahishasura who had been troubling the gods and goddesses and occupied Indra’s throne in heaven. So the gods and goddesses also worship the great goddess Durga. She is also known as Mahisasuramardini. The legend is incorporated in Sri Sri Chandi, a chapter in the Markandeya Purana composed by sage Markandeya.