Durga Puja is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India. Although it is celebrated across the entire country in various forms, the celebrations in West Bengal, particularly Kolkata, are the most spectacular. The preparations in the city begin in advance to the fest and go on for many days with families and friends getting together to celebrate in their households.
Huge statues of Goddess Durga are built depicting Her in various artistic forms following a set ritual beginning with the collection of clay for the idol. Elaborate decorations with dazzling lights and beautiful flowers are seen everywhere. The whole city is energized with the spirit of celebrating the festival of their beloved Goddess.
Mythological Significance of Durga Puja
The festival of Durga puja, has a mythological significance. According to one of the stories, Lord Rama performed a puja to please Shakti in order to defeat Ravana, the mighty demon king. When He was going to offer His eye at the Goddess’s feet, she appeared and granted him blessings due to which Rama defeated Ravana.
In another story, a demon king called Mahishasura had become invincible due to a boon granted by Lord Shiva. To defeat him, all the Gods combined their powers to create Goddess Durga or Shakti who then killed the demon. The festival is celebrated as a hallmark of victory of good over evil.
Durga Puja Celebrations
The festival begins on the MahaShashti and ends on BijoyaDashmi which is the tenth day. On the first day, statues of Goddess Durga are brought to home with great honor and are worshipped for five days with mantras, shlokas and prayers full of praises for the Goddess. Beautiful pandals are erected on different places where statues of the Goddess are worshipped on a community level.
The rhythmic sounds of Dhaaks and holy mantras in Bengal instill a great deal of devotion in the visitors from all across the World. People clean and decorate their houses, buy new clothes and offer good wishes to friends, relatives and neighbors. People visit each other’s places and give different kinds of gifts.
Sweets and Delicacies
Various types of sweets and delicacies are a major part of any festive celebration in India. West Bengal is particularly famous for its sumptuous sweet delicacies. Besides the popular Rasgullas there are many other sweets that are prepared for ‘bhog’ as well as relished by people during the festival. Most of these delicacies are made in households by women,however, they can also be bought from local markets.
Immersion of the statue of Goddess Durga
On the last day of the festival the statues of Goddess Durga are immersed in the holy water of Ganges river with tears in eyes. The smaller ones are submerged along the bank of the river while the larger ones are carried further into the river and immersed in deep water. It is an emotional moment for people who have to say farewell to their beloved Goddess after worshipping her in their houses for days.
This custom is created to make us aware of the transient nature of life itself that whatever comes into existence has to fade out one day. However, the grandeur of Durga Puja remains immortal into the hearts and souls of the devotees.
Latest Trends in Durga Puja Celebration
The fact that Durga Puja gained its prominence during the British rule and soon became an icon for the Indian Independence Movement, testifies for the touch of modernity bore by this 5 day exciting festival. Its vibrancy and prominence even in current times is depicted promptly even in popular Bollywood movies like Devdas and Kahaani.
Pandal Themes: As per the latest trends theme-based ‘pandal’ decoration and celebrations have widely replaced the old existing methods.
Themes as new as Harry Porter, Egyptian, Titanic and may more juvenile ones have been in vogue over some time. Although, criticized by the traditional orthodox community, such new initiatives have been widely accepted by the youth.
Invitation Cards: A lot of creativity and innovation is also observed in case of the Greeting and Invitation Cards exchanged on the festival occasion. Even the online selling giants like amazon.com have jumped into this utterly new segment offering hundreds of mesmerizing designs and ideas.
Gifts for self, family and friends: Online portals offer a wide range of gift items to choose from. Things like handbags, showpieces, mementos, metal wares, etc., that are spread over a broad price range, are some of the popular items bought and gifted.
Durga Puja Songs: Music play an important role in building up the spirit for any festival occasion, be it the joyous Holi songs or the patriotic songs on Independence Day. Likewise, there is wide collection of Durga Puja holy and devotional songs available in the traditional market as well cyber space in various languages including Hindi, Bengali and Tamil.
Attire Ideas: The topic would be incomplete without mentioning the wardrobe and fashion trends prevalent during this grand and colorful festival, which remains the point of attraction at par with the other preparations around.
The traditional attires like Bengali Sarees with puff-sleeved blouses, lehangas and anarkali suits dominate other modern dresses during the fest. Vibrant and flamboyant red, magenta, orange and similar colors that add further to the glitz of the celebrations are the most preferred ones. In the 2015 Durga Puja collections, some Western outfits also find space but in semi-traditional and fusion-wear form.
Social Awareness: If all the above points narrate the entertainment and fun aspects popular amongst masses, there are individuals and entities spreading various social awareness messages on this occasion including Women Empowerment, abolishment of Liquor and Environmental issues. Rather environmental hazards associated with the immersion of idols in the rivers have become a serious issue and is even been raised on the social media by the celebrities. Organizations are propagating the use of eco-friendly materials and chemicals for building up the idols so as to cut down the hazardous effects of materials traditionally used.
Wish you all a happy and blessed Durgotsava !