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Durga Puja is celebrated as a way of worshipping Durga, a Hindu goddess who is the form of Shakti. This festival is celebrated every year from the sixth to the tenth day, in the Ashwin month of a bright lunar fortnight as per the Bikram Sambat Calendar. And the six days are observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and also Vijayadashami.
This festival is considered very auspicious since it also celebrates the victory of good over evil. It was on this day that Durga is said to have killed the demon Mahishasura. Durga Puja is celebrated all over India in Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and also West Bengal. But of all these states, it is considered to be a significant festival in West Bengal and also Assam since they have a majority of Bengali Hindus residing there. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of the states.
In Assam, the Durga Puja is the only religious festival that is celebrated with so much dedication since the other festival that the Assamese celebrate- Bihu is a secular festival. This festival is not only celebrated in these states but is also considered of high significance as a social-cultural festival among the Bengali society. Apart from eastern India, this festival is also welcomed and celebrated in other parts of the country like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh.
The importance and popularity of the Durga Puja festival increased during the British rule in Bengal and also in Assam. According to history, the Hindu reformists had identified Durga with our country and in no time, Durga became the most important symbol for the Indian Independence movement. And post Independence, like you all, now know, Durga Puja went on to become one of the biggest renowned festivals of the whole world.
During Durga Puja, it is not just Durga who is worshiped, but also Shiva is worshiped who is Durga’s consort. And for those who are confused, Durga is a form of Parvati; along with Lakshmi and also Saraswati, Ganesha and also Kartikeya who are all said to be Durga’s children are also worshipped.
Earlier, the festival was celebrated by worshipping plants of nine different types. These plants are said to be the nine divine forms of Durga Ma and are called as Kala Bou. But in contemporary traditions, setting up of magnificent pandals and beautifully sculpted idols also has become an important part of Durga Puja. There are many people who go pandal-hopping only to view the different types of pandals that have been put up on display.
The celebrations are no longer limited to only rituals and traditions anymore, but there are a lot more that you can be a part of during Durga Puja, like several cultural programs that include dance and music. Before we tell of you how some states celebrate this beautiful festival, let us give you a little bit of history on the origin of Durga.
Origin and history of Shakti:
According to mythology, it is said that Mahishasura, who was a demon, after years of worship and penance finally got the opportunity to request Brahma for a boon. The boon was that no man or deity will be able to kill him. After this boon, Mahishasura swelled with pride and being invincible, he took disadvantage of his powers and started spreading terror and damage. He transformed into a strong and unbeatable buffalo demon and had killed thousands of innocent people. He soon started attacking Gods as well. To put an end to this, the three most important deities of Vishnu, Shankar and even Brahma with other Gods combined all their power and energies to give birth to Durga. Durga has ten hands an each of her hands is a representation of the power she has and it is with these powers that Durga killed Mahishasura. The day she vanquished this demon is today known as Mahishasura mardini.
Durga Puja Celebrations:
The Durga puja is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar and it usually falls between the months of September and November. It is celebrated all over India but to witness the grandest celebrations, there will be no better place than West Bengal. Cities in this state celebrate Durga puja with much pomp and merriment and pujo as the Bengalis call it is a much-awaited festival each year. The whole place comes alive and is lit up and decorated beautifully. Apart from West Bengal, even Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and also Maharashtra and Delhi celebrate.
We have listed down places for you that see the best celebrations in the country. Know where and how Durga puja is celebrated the best in India.
Durga celebrations in West Bengal:
Durga puja is the largest festival celebrated of Bengal. You will see thousands of beautifully decorated pandals around cities and even villages. People from all over the country visit West Bengal during this period and government offices, schools and colleges get a ten-day holiday so that people can celebrate this festival with family and friends.
The puja is done for five days which is also considered as the homecoming of Durga who was married. The festival is celebrated by people exchanging greetings and homemade sweets to family and loved ones. Even the non-believers take an active part in these celebrations and you will see people decked up in new traditional outfits. Though Durga Puja is a Hindu festival, people from all faiths come together to celebrate this festival or at least be a part of this. It truly is a great sight to watch people from different sights and faiths enjoy this beautiful festival to the hilt.
Kolkata Durga Puja
If you want to witness one of the best ways of celebrations of Durga Puja, Kolkata is where you should. The streets are lit up with LED lights and they glow so beautifully. It is believed that more than 45000 Durga pandals are set up in the streets of Kolkata and all of them are praise- worthy. As you walk down the streets of Kolkata, you will get to hear traditional music and also Rabindra Sangeet. The whole vibe of this festival is different during this time and hence one must definitely plan to visit Kolkata during Durga Puja.
Houses, trees, streets – everything glitters and brings the city to life. As a part of the celebrations, many places also have open fairs that you can visit with friends and family. Kids are sure to love the fairs since they have joy rides like the merry-go-round and giant wheels. Street vendors also make the most of this festive season and set up small roadside stalls that serve delicious eateries. It is only better to not talk about traffic during Durga puja for the traffic in Kolkata literally comes to a standstill and most people prefer pandal-hopping on foot.
You do not have to worry about any kind of crowd issues since a special task force is also appointed by Kolkata Police so that the law and order of the city is maintained. Another reason why the city takes so much effort to set up these pandals is because the government of West Bengal also announces prices for the best pandal. So, most people put up their best shows and pandals. In case you weren’t aware, Durga puja in Kolkata is also compared to the famous Rio carnival and why not, with so much to see and do, Kolkata’s Durga puja deserves this title.
You could also opt to visit your neighborhood pandals that often also host many cultural programs. On the last day, that is Vijaya Dashami, devotes perform the Dhunuchi Dance. In this dance form, people hold earthen lamps which are called Dhunachi with coconut husks that are lighted inside them and dance. The dance form is called the dhunuchi naachh and it is performed in front of Durga’s idol. Married women smear each other with red vermillion powder that is popularly called the sindoor-khela in Bengal. Then the idols are paraded around the city before they are finally submerged into a river. People also exchange bijoya greetings and sweets. This is how Durga Puja is celebrated in Kolkata.
Siliguri Durga Puja
Another place where the Durga puja is celebrated as good and grand as Kolkata is Siliguri. This quaint and beautiful city is also decorated with many pandals that look vibrant with bright lights. It is said that the puja that happens in Saktigarh, Hakimpara, Rabindra Sangha and Central Colony among several others are the most popular and also the oldest puja in Siliguri. The Silpanchal Durga Puja is also one of the oldest pujas in Siliguri and it started in 1955. Popular for its Protima and also several social activities, if you are in Siliguri this Durga puja, make sure you visit this pandal. Swastika Yubak Sangha is one of the oldest pujas that is said to draw the maximum number of people during Durga Puja in this area. In 2007, this committee completed its 50th year and the Sorojini Sanga completed 150 years recently.
Durga puja has almost the same traditions and rituals followed across cities. Be it Assam, Kolkata or Bengal, the celebrations are the same with maybe a few differences here and there. Every city has colorfully decorated pandals with different themes and stunning Durga idols.