Predominantly celebrated in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Odisha, and Bihar, Durga Puja happens to be one of the biggest festivals for Bengalis. The festival celebrates Goddess Durga’s triumph over the demon, Mahishasura. Though it’s a 10-day festival, the last five days are considered to be the most significant ones. Other than Goddess Durga, deities of Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Ganesha, and Karthik are also worshipped.
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When is Durga Puja in 2021?
Below are the dates when Durga Puja is celebrated in 2021:
|Name of the Day||Day||Date|
|Mahalaya||Wednesday||6 October 2021|
|Maha Panchami||Sunday||10 October 2021|
|Maha Sashti||Monday||11 October 2021|
|Maha Saptami||Tuesday||12 October 2021|
|Maha Ashtami||Wednesday||13 October 2021|
|Maha Navami||Thursday||14 October 2021|
|Vijaya Dashami||Friday||15 October 2021|
States in which Durga Puja is Celebrated: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh
The most important days in the festival are known as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijayadashami. In 2021, the important days in the Durga Puja festival will fall on the above days.
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Significance of Durga Puja
As per Hindu mythology, the festival marks Goddess Durga’s visit to her natal home along with her children. Durga Puja is preceded by Mahalaya, which marks the beginning of Durga’s journey to her home. The actual puja starts from “Maha Sashthi” or the sixth day where devotees welcome the Goddess with pomp and gusto. On this day, Durga’s deity is unveiled in front of the public. Several rituals are performed while the “dhakis” keep the mood and spirit of the puja alive by playing the “dhak”—a kind of drum that’s associated with the puja and Bengali culture.
The 7th day marks the commencement of “Maha Saptami”. On this day, just before dawn, a banana tree is immersed in the water as a part of the ritual. After the ceremonial bath, the tree or “Kola Bou” (as called in Bengali) is draped in a saree, usually a red-bordered one, and placed on the right-side of Ganesha, thereby implying that “Kola Bou” is actually the bride of Ganesha. However, several cultural revisionists and historians have different views on this as some believe that “Kola Bou” is another representation of Durga. Hence, they refute the theory that “Kola Bou” is the bride of Ganesha.
Another different view is that “Kola Bou” is a symbolic representation of nine types of plants that form a sacred complex. Priests tie a bunch of eight plants on the trunk of the banyan tree before performing the ritual. The nine different leaves combined together form “Kola Bou”—often considered as the plant form of Durga.
“Maha Ashtami” marks the 8th of the puja and is considered as the day when the Goddess defeated “Mahisasura”. Prayers are offered in the form of “Anjali” while feasts are organised in different localities. Khichdi and other delicacies are prepared on this day.
The 9th day is dubbed as “Maha Navami”. As soon as the “Sandhi Puja” ends, Maha Navami commences. Maha Aarti is performed as a closing ritual. Huge queues are common on this day as people flock in to take part in “Maha Aarti”.
The 10th day or “Maha Dashami” marks the final day of Durga Puja. On this day, Durga and the other deities are immersed in the river Ganga. Before the immersion, married women take part in “Sindoor Khela” where they smear vermillion on each other’s faces. On the day of immersion, also called “Visarjan”, huge processions are common. People dance and cheer on the road to celebrate the spirit of the puja. After the immersion, a typical custom is followed where people visit their relatives’ house to wish “Bijoya Dashami”.
How is Durga Puja celebrated?
Schools, colleges, and government offices are closed during the puja. People indulge in shopping for the puja just after Mahalaya. During this time of the year, most shops offer discounts on clothes and other products. On “Maha Ashtami” men usually wear Kurta Pajamas while women drape themselves in sarees.
Cultural events are organised in different localities while puja organisers compete against each other through theme-based puja pandals. The beauty of Durga Puja is that every pandal has a story to tell through its art and décor. People stand in queues just to enter the pandal so that they can enjoy the magnificent artwork and décor.
Food stalls are set up in every nook and corner while special Durga Puja dishes are prepared in restaurants. Streets are decorated with different lights to capture the festive mood. More police personnel are deployed than the usual to keep the traffic under control.
Durga Puja is the biggest festival for the Bengali community. Other than the celebrations, the festival calls for a family get-together. It’s a time when people bridge their differences and come together to celebrate unity. To be precise, Durga Puja transcends the boundaries of religion and celebrates the spirit of humanity.
Festive Traditions and Activities
Many exciting festive activities are organised on the eve of the festival of Durga puja. Some of these are:
- Setting up of ‘pandals’: A ‘Pandal’ is a place where the idol of Goddess Durga is kept. All the rituals and prayers take place inside the pandal. Magnificent pandals are set up before the puja begins. Architecture of the world’s most famous buildings is replicated. New designs are also laid out.
- Street food stalls: Alongside pandals, many food stalls are set up which sell a variety of street foods ranging from golgappas to bajjis and samosas.
- Shopping: As per tradition, in some of the states such as West Bengal, people wear new dresses every day.
Detailed Information about the Festival of Durga Puja
Durga puja is one of the mostly grandly celebrated festivals in the country with the celebrations carrying over for more than a week. Each day has its own special meaning and different activities are carried out every day. Some of these are:
- Maha Shashti: As per mythology, Maha Shashti is known as the day when Goddess Durga landed on earth with her 4 children: Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Laxmi, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Kartikeya. On the eve of Maha Shashti, the face of the idol of Goddess Durga is unveiled. The rituals performed on the day are ‘Amontron, ‘Bodhon’ and ‘Adhibash’. Drums known as ‘Dhaak’ are banged to signal the arrival of Goddess Durga everywhere.
- Maha Saptami: On the eve of Maha Saptami, the Maha puja is performed. Just before the sun rises, a banana tree is submerged in holy water and then it is covered with a new sari just like a newlywed woman. This ritual is known as ‘Kola bou’ or ‘Nabapatrika’. The banana tree is kept with the idol of Goddess Durga. Nine plants are also kept which represent the 9 forms of Goddess Durga.
- Maha Ashtami: As per mythology, Maha Ashtami is believed to be the day when Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura, also known as the ‘Buffalo devil’. In the olden days, a buffalo was sacrificed to mark the occasion. Hymns are chanted in Sanskrit and people offer their prayers. The prayers are known as ‘Anjali’. Girls that are less than 9 years are depicted as Goddess Durga and are worshipped. This ritual is known as ‘Kumari puja’. After this, the ‘Sandhi puja’ is performed.
- Maha Navami: After the ‘Sandhi puja’ ends, Maha Navami starts. The ‘Maha arati’ is performed on the eve of ‘Maha Navami’. This is followed by the organising of recreational activities after which the ‘bhog’ is served to everyone.
- Maha Dashmi: On the eve of Maha Dashami, the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in the holy water of river Ganges. Before the immersion, processions are carried out by the worshippers on trucks with the beating of drums which is accompanied by singing and dancing. During the procession, women that are married throw vermillion on each other. In the evening, people visit each other’s houses and wish ‘Vijoy Dashmi’. Special food dishes are also prepared.
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Celebration of Durga puja in different Indian States
Different states in the country celebrate Durga puja in their own unique way. Some of these are:
- Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: Durga puja celebrations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is very similar as locals of both the states organise the feeding of little girls on the last day of the festival. The scripture ‘Durga Saptashati’ is also recited in temples.
- West Bengal and Assam: In Assam and West Bengal, grand pandals are set up all over with varying themes. On the last day of the festival, the idol is immersed in the holy river of Ganges.
- Gujarat: In Gujarat, the festival of Durga puja is celebrated as Navratri with the famous dance ‘garba’ being performed by locals in events organised at night.
- Tamil Nadu: During the festival of Tamil Nadu, the locals worship the goddesses Durga, Saraswathi, and Lakshmi. In a tradition which is unique to the state of Tamil Nadu, young local girls display wooden dolls. The ritual is known as Golu.
- Punjab: During the 9 days of celebration of the Durga puja festival, ‘Jaagrans’ are held every night. On the eve of Ashtami, young girls from the age of 5 to 10 are given food, gifts, and money.
- Andhra Pradesh: On the eve of the festival in Andhra Pradesh, as per the ritual, the married women worship Goddess Gauri and the unmarried pray for the spouse of their choice. The Durga puja in Andhra Pradesh is known as Bathukamma Panduga. For worship purposes, the women create flower stacks which are immersed later in the river.
- Chhattisgarh: The locals of Chhattisgarh celebrate the festival for a period of 75 days. Bastar, a town in Chhattisgarh, is known to have celebrated the festival for over 500 years.
- Karnataka: The festival of Durga puja is known as Dussehra in Karnataka. Mysore is famous for its celebrations of the festival.
- Maharashtra: In Maharashtra, people play Garba on the eve of the festival. Completing business deals and buying property is considered lucky at the time of the festival of Durga puja.
- Himachal Pradesh: The locals of Himachal Pradesh start the celebrations of the festival when it is about to end in the rest of the country. Dhalpur Maidan, situated in Kullu Valley, is famous for its celebrations.
Durga puja is considered to be one of the major festivals that the people of this country celebrate. Wherever you go, from Himachal in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, it is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm.
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