Durga Puja in Bengal, Kolkata- 2021

Durga Puja in Bengal, Kolkata- 2021

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Kolkata, the city of Joy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. It is a gateway to eastern India. The former British capital of India is a colorful palette of art and architecture, museums, temples, football clubs, Coffee houses, lip-smacking street food along with plethora of cultural festivals. It is a place where you will be able to see a unique blend of old and modern culture. The city of joy Kolkata is known for its liveliness and rich culture and heritage. The city of Kolkata comes alive in the festival of Durga Puja.

 

DURGA PUJA:

Durga Puja is the most important festival of Bengalis. It comes during the month of Ashwin (September-October). Before Durga Puja, comes the, which is a fortnight after the new moon (Amavasya). During that fortnight, called Pitripaksha (Pitri – ancestor, paksha – fortnight), we remember our family ancestors and offer til (sesame seed) and water in their name. This is called the til tarpan. If one is unable to perform til tarpan for fourteen days, he does it on the day of Mahalaya, the last day of the ancestor fortnight. The procedure of tarpan in described in the booklet on ‘Rituals after death in Hindus”. After Mahalaya starts the Devi paksha (shukla paksha or waxing side of the moon). It is the fortnight of the celebration of worshipping Goddess Durga that culminates on the tenth day (dashami). Five days after is the Purnima, the day Lakshmi puja.

Durga puja is done for five days: Shashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. Sandhipuja is done between Ashtami and Navami.

The mythological story behind the Durga Puja is that Durga, the goddess with ten hands, killed the demon Mahishashur. Mahishashur did years of penance to Brahma to become immortal. Brahma granted him the boon making the exception that he can only be killed by a woman. Mahishashur felt that to be as good as immortal, as he could not think of a woman who could be more powerful than him. So Durga took birth with the power of all Gods and Goddesses and slew Mahihshashur. Five days of Durga Puja celebration marks the victory of righteousness over evil.

Traditionally Durga Puja used to be held during spring (basant), which is still continued. But Rama prayed to Durga during this time (fall, sarat) in order to get her blessing and the weapon to kill Ravana (Read Indian epic Ramayana, originally written by Valmiki). Thus a new tradition was started since Rama’s time and Durga Puja was shifted to this time of the year.

Hence it is often referred as akal bodhan that means untimely prayer. In the following pages we will describe how the Bengalis celebrate Durgapuja.

 

WHO’S WHO IN DURGA’S FAMILY?

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Kalabau (Nabapatrika)

Kalabau, popularly known among Bengalis as Ganesh’s wife, in reality has no relationship with Ganesh. Our scriptures call her Nabapatrika or new leaves. Interestingly enough, Nabapatrika was actually a popular ritual performed by the peasant folks for prosperous harvest. As idol worship was not common then, people worshipped Mother Nature. It was during the autumn (Sharat), the time for reaping crops (Amondhan); peasants worshipped Goddess Nabapatrika for good harvest. Later when Durga Puja became a popular festival of Sharat, all the nine holy
rituals of the Nabapatrika, were added to the ceremonies of Durga Puja. In fact Nabapatrika represented the primitive form of Durga Puja. This primitive form of worship is still prevalent in some places.

The original nine plants of Nabapatrika are:

banana plant (kalagaach),

colocassia (kochu),

turmeric (halud)

, jayanti, wood apple (bel gach),

pomegranate (daalim gaach),

arum (mankochu),

rice plant (dhan), and

the Ashok tree.

 

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Nabapatrika, which is worshipped during Bodhan (Shashthi), is an important part of Durga Puja. These nine plants represent nine goddesses (Some are combined – Brahmani, Kalika, Durga, Rudrani, Jayanti, Kartiki, Shivani (wife of Shiva), Raktadantika, Ahoka-Sokrahita, Chamunda-Lakshmi – which are the nine forms of Durga).

With the spread of Bengali culture around the globe, sticking to the above plants in building the traditional Nabapatrika does not seem to be justified. Instead we choose any nine branches of trees growing in the area, preferably fruit bearing. This is a compromise between the thought planted by our ancestors and the modification adjusted to the current environment of our lives.

 

Introduction to Durga and Her Family

  • Origin of Goddess Durga

During the days of mythology, Mahishasur was a powerful demon king who could change his form from human to buffalo. After many years of prayer he received a boon from Brahma that he could only be killed by any man. He ignored the strength of the woman which became the secret of his death. He soon became invincible and terrorized heaven and earth. The Gods finally went into conclave and created a nemesis in the form of a young beautiful woman. She was named Durga or the rescuer from trouble. After ten days of fight, Durga killed Mahishasur on the tenth day of the waxing moon. Thus Durga was called Mahishasur Mardini (slayer of the buffalo demon). Later, Durga, with Her divine powers became the wife of Lord Shiva and was known as Parvati (daughter of the mountain – parvat, whose name was Himavat, another name of Himalaya). They got four childen – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. Each of them had different divine attributes which made them different Gods and Goddesses. The mother, Durga or Parvati, visits the earth once a year along with Her children during the autumn season whose images (deities) are displayed on the puja mandap (stage).

  • Ganesh (Ganesha, Ganapati, Vinayaka, Ganesa, Vighneshvara)
    God with elephant head; younger son of Shiva and Durga; one of the best known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon; revered as the remover of obstacles and entrusted for an auspicious beginning. Mouse is His pet animal.
  • Kartik (Kartikkeya, Subhramany, Kartikay, Skanda, Guha, Sanmukha)
    Central deity of the Hindu tradition, God of war, elder brother of Ganesha and slayer of the demon Taraka. Peacock is His pet bird and vehicle of transportation.
  • Lakshmi
    Beautiful and loving Hindu Goddess of Good fortune, wealth and prosperity (both material and spiritual). She is one of the daughters of Durga and sister of Saraswati. She brings eternal happiness, abundance, and good fortune. Owl is her pet bird.
  • Saraswati (Sharda, Vani, Vaakdevi)
    Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. She is the consort of Brahma. She is widely revered by the students dedicated to learning. White swan is her pet bird and transportation vehicle.
  • Mahishasur
    Mahishasur was a powerful king of demons who had the ability to switch from human to buffalo. He was invincible by Gods that resulted in the creation of Goddess Durga by their contributed powers. After a ferocious fight Durga finally slayed the demon and brought universal peace. Thus Mahishasur is credited in the creation of Durga, the goddess who rescues the humans from troubles.

 

 

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