Kolkata’s Durga Puja is famous all over the world. Also known as Navratri in other parts of India, Durga Puja has its own uniqueness when it comes to the people of Bengal. The ten-day festival, of which the last five is most significant for Kolkata. Maa Durga being the chief goddess revered during Durga Puja, other deities like Laxmi and Saraswati are equally revered and welcomed. Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati known as the goddesses of wealth prosperity and knowledge respectively come along with Goddess Durga. Lord Ganesh known as the remover of obstacles and Kartik known as the Senapati or head of wars, accompany Maa Durga. The four deities are considered as the children of Goddess Durga. The ten-day festival is preceded by Mahalaya, marking the start of Maa Durga’s jaunt to her paternal home along with her children. Unable to contain the excitement, people start celebrating and Pandal hopping from the 5th day commonly known as Panchami in Bengal. However, the rituals of this great grand festival start from the 6th day known as Maha Sashthi in and around Bengal.
On the day of Maha Sashthi, Maa Durga is believed to have arrived to this mortal world from the heavenly abode accompanied by her children. The dhak beats welcome Goddess Durga and her children with much pomp and pageantry. The face of the idol is unveiled on this day of the ritual.
Maha Saptami, culturally being the first day of Durga Puja starts with the ancient ritual of pre-dawn bath of nine different types of plants. The bath is generally done in the holy river of Ganges. These plants are then worshipped as an emblem of Goddess Durga. It is also known as Maha snan.
Maha Ashtami, considered to be the most important and significant day of Durga Puja starts with the chanting of Sanskrit mantras and the predominant culture of offering Pushpanjali to Goddess Durga. The Pushpanjali is offered by chanting the Pushpanjali mantras and the puja is repeated 3 times while chanting 3 different mantras. As the name signifies, it is the custom to offer flowers to the deities while observing a fast and followed by consuming bhog prasad. People in Bengal make sure not to miss this festival as it has its own cultural significance. The evening is followed by observing the Sandhi Puja which marks the inter-linking of Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami.
Maha Navami is genrally the concluding day of Durga Puja. Goddess Durga is worshipped following all the rituals and ceremonies. The bhog is offered to the Goddess and thereafter consumed by the bhakts. On this day, Kumari Puja is observed at different places wherein five/nine/ eleven young girls are welcomed in the house by washing their feet and worshipped as a form of goddess. Prasad is offered to the young girls or the kanyas. It is believed that it was on this day that Goddess Durga exterminated the Mahisasur’s head from his body using a trishool.
On the tenth or the last day of Durga puja, a tearful yet a grand send-off is given to Maa Durga.
The zeal and emotion is kept alive with popular saying “Asche bochor abar hobe” (Coming year Maa Durga will visit again) and with tears in eyes and a heavy heart many murmur “Abar esho Maa” (Do come again Maa). I love to celebrate this puja with friends and family and soak in all the fun and also look forward to the re opening of my college, Calcutta Business School.
PGDM Batch 2019-21