A typical Durga Puja pandal (Source: Google)
Xaradiyo Utsav or Durga Puja – the ceremonial worship of the Mother Goddess Durga, and celebrating her victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura, is one of the most vibrant and loved festival of our region. Durga is Shakti, or female energy. She is the consort of the God Shiva, and the daughter of Haimavat, the Himalaya Mountains, and of Maina.
The festival is celebrated for ten days. It usually falls in the month of September and October. Around one week before the festival starts, on the occasion of Mahalaya, the Goddess is invited to come to the earth. It is believed that the mode of transport she chooses, forecasts the happenings of the coming year. For instance, if she chooses to come down in a boat it symbolizes a flood or if she chooses an elephant it symbolizes prosperity and so on. The eyes are drawn on the idols of the Goddess on this day. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Goddess Durga installed in homes and beautifully decorated podiums, called pandals, all over the city. The main days (also the last 4 days) of the Puja are the Maha Sashti, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijay Dashami. At the end of the festival (Vijay Dashami), the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much music and dancing, and then immersed in the water.
Mythological angle – in Indian mythology, there is a story behind every God and their appearance on the surface of the earth had a purpose. The story behind celebration of Durgotsav or Durga Puja every year is that the Goddess comes down from the Mount Kailash (her abode with her better-half Lord Shiva), to her father’s home during the ten days of the autumn. Along with her she brings her four children namely – Saraswati, Lakhsmi, Ganesha & Kartikeya. On her arrival every year, she is showered with love and affection and her homecoming is celebrated with pomp and grandeur. Dashami (or Bijoya) the tenth day of the waxing moon, is the day when she must return to Mt. Kailash. At midday, the goddess’ hair parting is adorned with sindoor, the sign of marriage that most Hindu women wear, and she is sent on her way to Kailash. This is symbolised by the ‘visarjan’ or ‘bhasaan’, the ceremonial immersion of the goddess’ idols in the river: the image is taken in festive procession down to the river, and with drumbeats and dancing is lowered into the water.
For me the stories/beliefs associated with Maa Durga and infact all Hindu Gods, is what fascinates me.
My experiences: My Durga Puja memories comprises of the sweet fragrance of sewali phool (night jasmine) which fragrances the night air that has a slight chill in it, lots of colourful lights, glittery traditional clothing, pandal–hopping to witness the thematic presentations of Maa Durga, balloons (I buy them even today), crowded shops and streets, mouth -watering jalebi and khurma and of course getting clothes and other gifts from my parents and relatives. I am still fascinated by balloons of all shapes and sizes during Puja. My celebrations are incomplete without a big bunch of them in all possible shapes and colours and also without digging my teeth into some crispy and flavoursome jalebis.
Sewali phool (night jasmine)
This year the last four days of the puja celebrations were from 11th to 14th October. This time my parents, my sister and brother-in-law along with my 11 month old niece had come down to the city I work in and we enjoyed the Puja celebrations here. We did some puja & pandal hopping, bought balloons, ate crispy golden jalebis, did some shopping and ate delicious Bengali thali @ Sholo Ana Bangali & Assamese thali @ Delicacy. We also made visits to some relatives in the city and gorged on some even tastier homemade food. Amongst all of us, my niece had the most fun time with all the glitz and glitter around her and bursting some balloons. 🙂
For me this festival and in fact every other festival of ours, reminds us of our rich culture and heritage. In our busy lives, it is on such days when we stop and get to enjoy this richness and feel happy to be a part of it. Also, it gives us the opportunity to spend quality time with our family. 🙂 I hope everyone else had a fun-filled Durga Puja and celebrated it with pomp and grandeur. Do share your experiences. 🙂
P.S. Xarodiyo Utsav means Autumnal celebrations
Making of the mother goddess: http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/photos/kumartuli-making-of-the-mother-goddess-1348652438-slideshow/
Story behind the puja here – http://www.longlongtimeago.com/llta_festival_durgapuja.html