One of the most notable and revered Hindu festivals that are celebrated in India is Durga Puja. This pan-Indian festival involves the ceremonial worship of the divine Goddess Durga. Durga Puja is a Hindu festival that is observed with great fervour and devotion by people all over India. The auspicious festival of Durga Puja epitomises the triumph of good over evil. This festival is observed in the Ashwin month, which is typically around October and September.
The Durga Puja 2021 will begin on 11th October 2021 and will end on 15th October 2021.
The important Durga Puja dates that a devotee should know are given below-
The auspicious occasion of Durga Puja is also known as Durgotsava. Durga Puja refers to the five glorious days of festivity and devotion which are observed by the devotees. According to Hindu religious scriptures, Durga Puja should start from the next day of Mahalaya Amavasya. The day of Mahalaya is considered to be the most significant day of Pitru Paksha. The devotees widely believe that Goddess Durga comes on earth on the first day of Devi Paksha, which begins on the next day of Mahalaya. The divine Goddess departs on the last day, which is on Durga Visarjan. Devotees usually consider the day of her arrival and departure as omens of the upcoming time.
The festivities and the festival commences from the sixth day of Navratri, and the festival is celebrated for five days. The five days observed are- Shashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and the last day is Vijayadashami. Each day has its meaning and holds momentous significance.
Goddess Durga is the epitome of female strength and power. She represents the destruction of the wrong and the evil and the protection of the good. Hence, the festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, as it is believed that Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasura. Goddess Durga represents the ultimate power, i.e. Shakti.
The reason for the grandness and significance associated with this particular festival can be found in mythology. It is commonly believed that all the Gods created Goddess Durga to destroy Mahishasura and bring an end to Mahishasura's evil power.
According to Hindu mythology, Mahishasura was an arrogant and powerful Asura (demon). After Mahishasura did years of penance and prayers, Lord Brahma was very pleased with him and offered him a wish. Arrogant and mad with power, he asked for immortality. He wished that he would not be killed by any 'man or animal' on earth. Lord Brahma granted him this wish and informed him that a woman would be the reason behind his death. Mahishasura believed that no woman could harm him. Mahishasura, mad with the power of immortality, attacked Trilok, i.e., the three worlds: heaven, earth, and the infernal regions. He also tried to attack and capture Indralok or the kingdom of Lord Indra.
The Gods tried to defeat Mahishasura; however, the Gods couldn't defeat him due to Lord Brahma's boon. To defeat Mahishasura, the Gods approached the trinity, i.e., Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu decided to create a powerful woman who could defeat Mahishasura. All the deities combined their powers to create Goddess Durga, which is why she is blessed with the collective power and energy of the Gods. Other gods gifted her with weapons to fight and destroy Mahishasura. The collective energy of all the Gods created Goddess Durga, an embodiment of Shakti, meaning divine feminine power.
Goddess Durga then fought with Mahishasura, who kept shape-shifting from becoming a man to becoming an animal to mislead the Goddess. Finally, when Mahishasura transformed into a buffalo, Goddess Durga stabbed him with her Trishul or Trident. This led to Mahishasura's destruction.
Goddess Durga is deemed to be an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. She is the mother goddess and is Shakti, the power that runs the whole universe. Due to this mythological tale, Goddess Durga is also addressed as Mahishasura Mardini.
The rituals for Durga Puja are as follows-
Mahalaya- Mahalaya can be termed as the first day of the auspicious Durga Puja festival. This day denotes the invocation of the divine Goddess Durga to descend on earth. Holy mantras are chanted, and devotional songs are sung. Typically, on this day, the eyes of the deities' idols are painted to give them a life-like appearance. This holy day marks the end of Amavasya, and the next day, known as the Pratipada, marks the beginning of Navratri- the nine-day festival.
Day 1 (Shashthi)- This day marks the beginning of the major festivities and celebrations of Durga Puja. Idols of the deities, i.e., Goddess Durga and her children, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Laxmi, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Kartikeya, are set up in the temples and pandals, and the celebrations begin. On this day, "Akal Bodhon", which is the invocation of Goddess Durga, is done. The ceremonial unveiling of the idols' faces is done on this day. The sound of drums known as 'Dhaak' can be heard in every pandal.
Day 2 (Saptami)- On Saptami, the Maha Puja and the major rituals are performed. A knowledgeable priest chants the holy mantras and performs the Aarti. The Kolabou Puja, wherein a banana tree is submerged in holy water before the sun rises and then adorned with a new sari just like a newlywed woman and then worshipped, is also done.
Day 3 (Ashtami)- This day is considered an important day for the worshipping of Goddess Durga. It is regarded as an important day because when Ashtami ends and Navami begins, that is precisely the time when Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura. Sandhi Puja is performed on this day. Sandhi Puja is a forty-eight minutes Puja that interlinks the eighth and the ninth day. Devotees offer their prayers to Goddess Durga by doing 'Anjali'. On the eighth day, young girls are worshipped in a ritual known as the 'Kumari Puja'.
Day 4 (Navami)- After the Sandhi Puja, the ninth day, Navami, begins. On this day, Maha Aarti is performed, which denotes the formal end of the ritualistic ceremonies.
Day 5 (Vijayadashami and Durga Visarjan)- Vijayadashami is the last day of Durga Puja. On this final day, married women partake in 'Sindoor Utsav' or 'Sindoor Khela' wherein they smear vermilion or sindoor on Goddess Durga's forehead and feet and then on each other. On this day, the devotees submerge clay idols of the deities in water bodies and bid a tearful goodbye. This custom is known as 'Visarjan', and it symbolises the return of the Goddess with her children to her holy abode.
One cannot deny that Durga Puja is a festival that is celebrated with utmost zeal and ardour by devotees. This festival is observed in different ways across various parts of India. This festival holds much significance, especially for Bengali people. While this auspicious festival is celebrated throughout the country, the grandeur and enthusiasm that can be seen in the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, and Bihar are unparalleled. The streets of Kolkata become an ocean of people celebrating in a festive mood. During this festival, it is a delight for everyone to watch the beautifully created and adorned idols of Goddess Durga and the magnificent Durga Puja pandals.
On the occasion of Durga Puja, people make special delicacies and sweets. People buy new clothes which are worn during the celebrations. Various cultural programs involving singing and dancing are organised.
Devotees celebrate with merriment the victory of good over evil on Durga Puja. Fanfare can be sensed all around on the five days of the festival.
If you want to know more about Durga Puja rituals and methodologies or have any astrology-related questions, then get in touch with Astroyogi astrologers.