Durga Puja, the annual celebration of Hindu goddess Durga, is here! Navratri, the nine-day long festival of the goddess starts from October 17 and lasts till the 26th this year. It is one of India's grandest festivals and a most auspicious celebration for Hindu Bengalis around the world.
The festival is celebrated with song and dance, fasting followed by feasts, elaborate decorations, and pujas or grand ceremonies at temples and religious recitals. In some parts of India, idols of the goddess are immersed in water, whereas in other parts of the country young girls dress as the goddess and partake in various rituals at temples and public celebrations.
The festival commemorates the victory of the goddess over a demon called Mahishasura. As told by Hindu mythology, the warrior goddess Durga was brought into existence by the collective effort of all the gods in heaven. When one of the asuras - evil beings who reside below the earth - was granted a boon (a favor) which stated that he cannot be killed by any man, he waged a war against the gods. But when the gods failed to defeat the cunning asura, they came up with a solution. All the gods came together and projected their energies and powers to create an invincible woman, named Durga, or the impenetrable.
When Mahishasura first laid eyes on the goddess, he was captivated by her fierce beauty and wished to marry her. The goddess, however, was ready to marry only the one who could defeat her in battle. Since Mahishasura was not careful enough to choose his boon wisely, he forgot to ask for immunity from women.She began her battle against the demon on the seventh day of Navratri, known as Maha Saptami and slayed him by the final day of Vijay Dashami. The goddess, known to Hindus as the ‘destroyer of evil’, is characterized by her ten arms carrying various lethal weapons, as well as her vehicle – the lion. Also known as Bhavani, Amba, Chandika, Gauri, Parvati, Mahishasuramardini, Durga is the ‘Mother goddess’ and the ‘Protector of the Righteous’ to Hindu devotees.
"Celebrate Durga Puja With Me!" Picture book by Shoumi Sen.
For Bengalis, the phrase 'Maa aschen', which translates to 'the Goddess is arriving', means a great deal! With streets adorned in bright lights and everyone wearing colorful clothes, the festival brings people together. There are fun celebrations, lots of shopping, delicious mouth-watering food and a strong feeling of community. It is indeed the festival of all festivals.
'Asche bochhor abar hobe!'