Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival of India that celebrates the worship of Goddess Durga. The dates are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar. Durga Puja marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura, signifying the victory of Good over Evil. In West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura it is the biggest festival of the year. It is also widely celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Manipur. Nowadays, due to migration of people to various parts of the country, Durga Puja is also celebrated with much enthusiasm in many other states of India. It is even celebrated in Nepal and Bangladesh.
The entire process of creation of the sculptures from the collection of clay to the ornamentation is a holy process, supervised by rites and other rituals. There is age-old custom of collecting a handful of soil (punya mati) from the nishiddho pallis of Calcutta, literally ‘forbidden territories’, where sex workers live, and adding it to the clay mixture which goes into the making of the Durga sculpture.
Modern traditions have come to include the display of decorated pandals and artistically depicted sculptures of Durga, exchange of Vijaya greetings and publication of Puja Annuals. Durga puja celebrates the goddess and brings the Hindu community together by integrating modernised aspects of entertainment and technology, while still maintaining the religious worship. Somewhere inside these complex edifices is a stage on which Durga reigns, standing on her lion mount, wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. This is the religious center of the festivities, and the crowds gather to offer flower worship or pushpanjali on the mornings, of the sixth to ninth days of the waxing moon fortnight known as Devi Paksha. On the tenth day, Durga the mother returns to her husband, Shiva, ritualised through her immersion into the waters.
Pandals and sculptures inspired by a particular theme have been the hallmark of many communities. Contemporary subjects like the RMS Titanic and Harry Potter have also been the subject in some pandals. Today, there are several hundred Durga Pujas celebrated in Delhi NCR region with some of the most prominent in Kashmere Gate, Chittaranjan Park, Kalibari, Greater Kailash, Lajpat Nagar, Gurgaon and Noida. Durga Puja is even celebrated by the Indian diaspora residing in different parts of the world such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait.
Yesterday I went to few Durga Pujas in Gurgaon, one of which organised by Bangiya Parishad, was based on FIFA theme and the pandal was in the form of a giant football about 60 feet tall. There were posters of famous football players and breathtaking sculptures of Goddess Durga. There were many traditional as well as modern dance and music performances, and lots of delicious Bengali food preparations. People came beautifully dressed, all in festive mood.
‘Bolo Durga mai-ki jai’ (glory be to Mother Durga)
‘aashchhe bochhor abar hobe’ (it will happen again next year)