When to celebrate Durga Puja in 2014-2015-2016
When to celebrate Durga Puja in 2014-2015-2016-Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava or Sharadotsav, is an annual festival celebrated in India to worship Goddess Durga. The celebration commemorates the victory of Hindu Goddess Durga over a demon Mahishasura. It is one of the most significant festivals of India. In addition to being a religious occasion, it is also the period for rejuvenation, reunion and festivity of traditional customs and culture.
The lively festival of Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp and vigor in Indian states like Jharkahnd, Assam, Bihar, Tripura, Manipur, Odisha and West Bengal, where a five day annual holiday is announced. As the states of West Bengal and Tripura have a large number of Bengali Hindus, Durga Pooja is regarded as a major festival of the year. Besides East India, Durga Puja is ecstatically celebrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and Delhi. It is not only in India that the festival is celebrated with joy and delight, Nepal, where the majority of population is Hindu celebrates Durga Puja as a main festival. The same can be witnessed in Bangladesh as well.
How is Durga Puja Celebrated?
Durga Puja, the ceremonial worship of Goddess Durga, is celebrated in different ways at different places in India and other parts of the world at the same time. While the ceremony involves ten days of feast, fast and worship, the last four days, popularly known as, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami are celebrated with great cheerfulness and splendor in India.
In North India, the first nine days of the festivity, known as Navaratri, are usually observed as a period for fast and are followed by a grand celebration on the tenth day. In the southern part of India, the tenth day of the ceremony, known as Dussehra, is celebrated with much gaiety. In Western India, men and women participate in a dance form which is performed around for worship for the entire period of nine days. And in the East, a huge grandeur can be seen from the seventh day till the last day, which is the tenth day of the celebration.
Although, the festival holds universal significance and is seen to surpass regional influences, Durga Puja celebration of Bengal needs special mention. The festival is celebrated with devotion and dynamism with ceremonies of “Sarbojanin Puja” or community worship. Giant temporary structures known as “pandals” are constructed to conduct the prayer, which is followed by cultural performances and delicious feasts. The pandals are decorated with colorful lights and flowers.
Around a week before the beginning of the festival, during the event of Mahalaya, Goddess Durga is invited to visit the earth. Chokkhu Daan, an auspicious religious rite is performed at this time. Once the idols of Goddess Durga are positioned, rituals are performed to call upon her sacred existence into them. Known as Pran Pratisthan, a small plant of banana, called Kola Bou is purified in surrounding river and is dressed in sari to transfer the energy of the Goddess. Regular prayers are conducted each day throughout the period of the festival. On the third day, Kumari Puja is conducted where mother Goddess Durga is worshiped in the form of a small girl. The worshipping concludes on the following day with a maha aarti.
On the tenth day, which is the last day of the celebration, earthen idols of Goddess Durga are taken out along with other deities of Saraswati, Lakshmi, Ganesha and Kartikaya for their ceremonial immersion in river. The whole event is accompanied by a giant procession. The Bengali women bid emotion-charged adieu to Goddess Durga amidst drumbeats. This concludes the coming of Goddess Durga to earth. As Goddess Durga is believed to leave for Mount Kailash, the house of Lord Shiva, her husband, it is the time for Vijayadashmi or Bijoya when people hug their relatives and friends and exchange sweets.
Dandia and Garba Dance
In the western India, specifically in Gujarat, people spend nine nights dancing and enjoying. Garba, a traditional dance form of the state is extremely graceful where female dressed in beautifully embroidered ghagra choli and bhandani dupattas elegantly dance in circles around a lamp placed inside a pot. The word Garba means womb and the lamp inside the pot emblematically represents a life within a womb.
In addition to Garba, Dandia dance is another amusement when both men and women participate in pairs. The dance is performed holding small adorned bamboo sticks, known as dandias, in hands. Tiny bells or ghungroos are tied at the ends of these bamboo sticks so that they give pleasing sound when the dandias strike one another. The dance form encompasses a complex tempo. While the dance begins with a slow rhythm, the movements become fast with time in such a way that every individual dancing in a circle gets a chance to perform solo as well as hit his or her partner’s dandia exquisitely.
Exciting ways to experience Durga Puja in Kolkata
For those who wish to experience Durja Pooja in Kolkata, they must be in the city around a week before the beginning of the festival to capture the true essence of the celebration. Although, there are numerous ways to savor the festival, below mentioned are a few of them.
Get a glimpse of Durga icons being made
The skillfully handcrafted idols of Goddess Durga are eye-catching. You could not resist yourself from appreciating them even more once you see the efforts that are required to make them. Luckily, it is not something impossible to do. A large part of Durga idols are crafted in an area called Kumartuli, which involves a drive of 30 minutes from the city center of Kolkata. The name of the place means “Potter’s Locality” and as clear from the name itself, the locale was developed by a group of potters. Currently, approximately 150 families reside in that area. When you visit the place during Mahalaya, an occasion that is celebrated a week before the commencement of Durga Puja, it is easy to witness the eyes being sketched onto the idols at the time of an auspicious ceremony of Chokkhu Daan.
Make visit to various delightfully decorated Pandals
One of the best parts of Durga Puja is undoubtedly the Pandals of Goddess Durga. Not only they are exquisitely adored, each one has its own unique theme. To experience Durga Puja at its best, one can opt for pandal hopping. As there are thousands of pandals in Kolkata at the time of Durga Puja, it is possible to visit only a few of them. Besides, strategic scheduling is required as the pandals are spread all over the town. The most popular and crowded ones can be found in the North and South Kolkata and the area is expediently linked by the Metro Railway. The best time to visit the pandals is during the night when they are all well-lit with colorful lights. However, for those who want to avoid crowd, daytime is perfect for pandal hopping.
Get a taste of different flavors
No other time in Kolkata would be perfect to enjoy varied cuisines than Durga Puja. The celebration would not be complete without delicacies. Whether it is Bengali restaurants, streets or Pandals, one can find a wide array of disshes everywhere in the city. Pandal hopping can be a tiring venture, so getting a taste of assorted flavors certainly makes sense. The food served to the visitors at pandals is known as Bhog. It usually comprises of a fried dish, vegetable curry, a dessert and chutney. The Bengali restaurants in Kolkata also offer special Durga Puja menus including authentic cuisines.
See the Kola Bou Bath
Durga Puja gets underway from Saptami, the seventh day of the celebration. A custom is performed to transport the energy of Goddess Durga into the deities. This is done with the help of a small banana plant known as Kola Bou. Amidst drum beats and chanting of mantras, Kola Bou is purified in nearby river. Following this, Kola Bou is dressed in a sari having red border. It is then taken to the icon of Goddess Durga which is positioned alongside Lord Ganesha. Majority of people consider Kola Bou as Lord Ganesha’s wife. Airitolla and North Kolkata ghats of Bagbazar are a few perfect places to witness this ritual.
Watch the immersion of Durga deities
On Dashami, the last day of the 10 day long festival, the celebration begins with married ladies offering red sindhoor to the idols of mother Goddess Durga, which is then smeared on each other. The statues of Goddess Durga, along with Ganesha, Lakshmi and Saraswati are immersed into the river in the evening. Babau Ghat, located close to Eden Garden makes an ideal immersion spot, while one can also see the immersion at various other ghats along the river. The most delightful way of watching the same is by boat.
When to celebrate Durga Puja in 2014
The festivity of Durga Puja begins on 29 September and concludes on 4 October in 2014.
When to celebrate Durga Puja in 2015
18 October to 23 October marks the celebration of Durga Puja in 2015.
When to celebrate Durga Puja in 2016
The celebration of Durga Puja commences on 7 October and lasts till 11 October in 2016.