Festivals are not just about dressing up, meeting people, and eating good food. They are about taking time off from daily work and indulging yourself in the best of the festivities. It does more than giving you that much-needed break from work, it recharges you and cleanses you of all the stress and the negativity.
Durga Puja being one of the major festivals of India and the biggest of Bengal impacts one and all. Such is the magnitude of the 5-day event that people schedule their year around the festival and even prepare a separate puja budget.
The festival is the celebration of Goddess Durga visiting her natal home along with her four children Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), Ganesh (God of beginnings), Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge and music), and Katrik (God of war). It also is a celebration of her victory over the demon Mahisasura, forming a reminder of good defeating evil.
The festival begins with Shoshthi, the Goddess along with her four children are welcomed with puja and sweets into her natal home.
The next day, Saptami is the day of the worshipping of nine plants called Nabapatrika. The rituals begin with a holy bath of nine plants bunched together that is invoked as Goddess Durga in the river or pond. The leaves or the plants are tied to twigs of white Aparajita plants with a yellow color thread. These nine plants are combined to represent the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga.
The main puja takes place on Ashtami, considered to be the most auspicious, the reason which Bengali families do not touch non-vegetarian food on this day. The puja takes place early in the morning, this is the day people gather in pandals to take part in the puja and perform the Anjali (chanting of mantras and worshipping the goddess with flowers). Then it follows with the Bhog (rice and lentil cooked together). A tradition associated with Ashtami is to honor the Kanya in the home. A group of young, unmarried girls (a group of five or seven) are invited into the home to honor them. The tradition is based on the belief that each of these young girls( Kanya ), represents the shakti (energy) of Durga on Earth. The group of girls is welcomed by washing their feet (a common ceremonial in India to welcome someone), welcoming them into the home, and then the rituals are done as Alati and Puja. After the rituals, the girls are fed sweets and foods and honored with small gifts.
Navami, the day after Ashtami, is celebrated to mark Maa Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. It is said that on this day the last battle was fought with her emerging victorious on Dashami. The reason which the people of Bengal feast on mutton (goat meat) on this day. The day begins with a bath called the ‘Maha snan’ and then prayers to the Goddess take place. It is said that on this day she is worshipped as Mahisasuramardhini (slayer of Mahishasura).
And finally, the last day, Vijaya Dashami, the day Maa Durga emerged victorious in the battle against Mahishasura. This is the last day of the festival and also the day she returns to Kailasha to her husband Shiva. It is the saddest day as the festival ends and Maa Durga has to leave her devotees behind. People bid her goodbye teary-eyed as the idols are immersed in the Ganga river. But the goodbyes despite being sad are filled with the beats of the dhaak, as she promises to come back again and fill her devotees' lives with happiness the next year.
The cynosure event is looked forward to by all, as it embraces everyone without differentiating by religion, wealth, and age.
The people of Bengal are known for their love of food. And Durga puja is just another opportunity for them to feast on food. One of my favorite sights of Durga Puja is of a Hindu family waiting outside a Mughlai restaurant for hours to enjoy their plate of Mutton biriyani, a Muslim delicacy after their day's quota of pandal hopping. And not only biriyani but people also flock to restaurants of all cuisines like bees to nectar. And it is not only about the main course the popular “Phucka” popularly known as panipuri is consumed like water by pandal hoppers.
Maa Durga does know the art of bringing her children together. The reason which the employee and the employer take part in a session of “Dhunuchi Naach”, in the beats of the drum called “Dhaak”, forgetting their different positions in the man-made society. While the ladies take part in “Sindur Khela”, they smear each other with red Vermillion.
Such is the control of Bengal’s favorite “Maa”, that the weather too is under her control. Shockingly the weather during the festival is neither too hot nor cold. It’s somehow just right for the ladies to dress up to their best without worrying about sweating or the need to put on a jacket. Like all mothers, she makes sure to take care of it all.
Her children though do not leave a stone unturned or in this case a bamboo lying on the road to give her the best reception. The pandals, her place of residing are made without sparing any expense. Of course, she being a loving mother never differentiates and gives her blessing to all irrespective of the pandals made. But the queue to watch her in those palace-like pandals is something that can make the river Nile jealous of her length.
For many Durga Puja is about the “Starts”, many restaurants and businesses start right before the pujas and if on possessing the potential and with Maa Durga’s blessings go on to achieve more than their expectations. At the same time for the younger generation, it’s about getting permission to hang out with friends for the first time. And eventually slipping out for that first date. The memory of my first movie date is something I will always cherish. The planning and then dressing up to meet her will always be special.
Whereas the world celebrates just one day for love, on Valentine's Day, Bengal celebrates the emotion for 5 consecutive days. Love is celebrated in all of its forms.
For me, though the best part about the puja is taking part in the chatting sessions with friends and family and getting updates about their lives from the rest of the year. In Bengal those sessions are called “Adda”, it is a common sight to see people sitting in circles and discussing topics in detail, from politics to sports and from education to the latest movies.
Durga Puja is all about coming close and celebrating the power of a woman who took on the demons and came back victorious. Maa Durga is the symbol of power for us. She is the epitome of female power and a mother's love for her children.
We at Godial hope you too have a great time and with the help of Godial return victorious against your business problems. Wish you a great puja, and though we are in the festival mood, we are at your service always, for you are family, and we are always there for our family.