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Durga puja - 2014

 Durga puja:

Durga puja , also referred to as Durgotsava  or Sharadotsav is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. 

Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Thus, Durga Puja festival epitomizes the victory of Good over Evil.

It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar and the fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Devi Paksha ( Fortnight of the Goddess). Devi Paksha is preceded by Mahalaya (the last day of the previous fortnight Pitri Paksha, ‘Fortnight of the Forefathers’), and is ended on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja (‘Worship of Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori Full Moon Night’).

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In India:

* Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tripura and West Bengal, where it is a five-day annual holiday.

* In West Bengal and Tripura, which has a majority of Bengali Hindus, it is the biggest festival of the year. Not only is it the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout the state, it is also the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali society.

* Apart from eastern India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.


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In Other Countries:

* Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal.

* Also in Bangladesh all over the places of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Bogra and other major places and all the villages of Bangladesh where the 20% population is Hindu.3 day National Holiday is being declared and most of the educational institutions remain closed as it is one of the major national festival also in Bangladesh which is widely celebrated and peoples from all religion participate in the program.

* Nowadays, many diaspora Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.


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Durga Puja is also called:
 
* Akalbodhan ('untimely awakening of Durga') --- in Bengal,
* Sharadiya Pujo (‘autumnal worship’) -------------- in Bengal
* Sharodotsab (‘festival of autumn’) ----------------- in Bengal
* Maha Pujo (‘grand puja’) ----------------------------- in Bengal
* Maayer Pujo (‘worship of the Mother) ------------ in Bengal
* Puja or Pujo --------------------------------------------- in Benga
* Bhagabati Puja ----------------------------------------- in Bangladesh,
* Durga Puja --------------------------------------------- in Bihar, Assam, Orissa, Delhi and M.P.

* Kullu Dussehra ----------------------------------------- in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh,
* Mysore Dussehra -------------------------------------- in Mysore, Karnataka,
* Bommai Golu -------------------------------------------- in Tamil Nadu 
* Bommala koluvu ---------------------------------------- in Andhra Pradesh.
* Navaratri Puja ----------------------------------------- in Gujarat, U. P, Punjab, Kerala ,
Maharashtra,

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"Akaal Bodhon" or "Akal Bodhan ":

 
The actual worship of the Goddess Durga as stipulated by the Hindu scriptures falls in the month of Chaitra, which roughly overlaps with March or April and is called Basanti or Vasantic Durga Puja. This ceremony is not observed by many and is restricted to a handful in the state of West Bengal.

The more popular form, which is also known as Sharadiya (Autumnal) Durga Puja, is celebrated later in the year with the dates falling either in September or October. Since the Goddess is invoked at the wrong time, it is called "Akaal Bodhon" in Bengali. "Akaal Bodhon"means out-of-season ('akal') worship ('bodhan').






Thus goes the story of Lord Ram wanted to get the blessings of Goddess Durga before beginning the war with Ravana. Lord Rama, first worshipped the 'Mahishasura Mardini' or the slayer of the buffalo-demon, by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps, at this time of the year.Therefore he invoked Goddess Durga during Ashwin (October – November). This is why the Durga Puja during October is also known as Akaal Bodhon or untimely invocation.



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Durga Puja in Eastern India:

In eastern India, especially in Bengal, the Durga Puja is the principal festival during Navaratri. It is celebrated with gaiety and devotion through public ceremonies of “Sarbojanin Puja” or community worship. Huge decorative temporary structures called “pandals” are constructed to house these grand prayer services, followed by mass feeding, and cultural functions. The earthen icons of Goddess Durga, accompanied by those of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikya, are taken out on the tenth day in a triumphal procession to the nearby river, where they are ceremonially immersed. Bengali ladies give an emotion-charged send-off to Durga amidst ululations and drumbeats. This marks the end of the goddess’ brief visit to the earth. As Durga leaves for Mount Kailash, the abode of her husband Shiva, it’s time for “Bijoya” or Vijayadashami, when people visit each other’s homes, hug each other and exchange sweets.


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Durga Puja in Western India:


The Garba & Dandia Dance of Gujarat





People in western India, especially in Gujarat, spend the nine nights of Navaratri (nava = nine; ratri = night) in song, danceks hit one another. The dance has a complex rhythm. The dancers begin with a slow tempo, and go
and merriment. Garba is a graceful form of dance, wherein women dressed in exquisitely embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas, dance gracefully in circles around a pot containing a lamp. 




The word “Garba” or “Garbha” means “womb”, and in this context the lamp in the pot, symbolically represent life within a womb. Besides the Garba is the “Dandia” dance, in which men and women participate in pairs with small, decorated bamboo sticks called dandias in their hands. At the end of these dandias are tied tiny bells called ghungroos that make a jingling sound when the stic into frenzied movements, in such a manner that each person in a circle not only performs a solo dance with his own sticks, but also strikes his partner’s dandias in style!

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Durga Puja in Northern India:
 

Dusshera & Ramlila

 Dusshera, as the name suggests occurs on the “tenth” day following the Navratri. It is a festival to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and marks the defeat and death of the demon king Ravana in the epic Ramayana. Huge effigies of Ravana are burnt amidst the bangs and booms of firecrackers.





In northern India, especially in Varanasi, Dusshera overlaps with “Ramlila” or “Rama Drama” – traditional plays in which scenes from the epic saga of the mythical Rama-Ravana strife are enacted by professional troupes.



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 Durga Puja in Southern India:

The Dusshera celebration of Mysore in southern India is a veritable extravaganza! Chamundi, a form of Durga, is the family deity of the Maharaja of Mysore. 





It’s a wonderful scene to watch the grand procession of elephants, horses and courtiers wending a circuitous way to the hilltop temple of Goddess Chamundi!

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Durga Puja in Bengal:
         

The ceremonial worship of the mother goddess, is one of the most important festivals of India. Apart from being a religious festival for the Hindus, it is also an occasion for reunion and rejuvenation, and a celebration of traditional culture and customs. While the rituals entails ten days of fast, feast and worship, the last four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - are celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal, where the ten-armed goddess riding the lion is worshipped with great passion and devotion.


The First Durga Puja in Bengal:

The first grand worship of Goddess Durga in recorded history is said to have been celebrated in the late 1500s. Folklores say the landlords or zamindar of Dinajpur and Malda initiated the first Durga Puja in Bengal. According to another source, Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur or Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya organized the first Sharadiya or Autumn Durga Puja in Bengal in c 1606.

The 'Baro-Yaari' Puja and Beginning of Mass Celebration:

 
The origin of the community puja can be credited to the twelve friends of Guptipara in Hoogly, West Bengal, who collaborated and collected contributions from local residents to conduct the first community puja called the 'baro-yaari' puja or the 'twelve-pal' puja in 1790. The baro-yaari puja was brought to Kolkata in 1832 by Raja Harinath of Cossimbazar, who performed the Durga Puja at his ancestral home in Murshidabad from 1824 to 1831, notes Somendra Chandra Nandy in 'Durga Puja: A Rational Approach' published in The Statesman Festival, 1991.

Origin of 'Sarbajanin Durga Puja' or Community Celebration:

 
"The baro-yaari puja gave way to the sarbajanin or community puja in 1910, when the Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha organized the first truly community puja in Baghbazar in Kolkata with full public contribution, public control and public participation. Now the dominant mode of Bengali Durga Puja is the 'public' version," write M. D. Muthukumaraswamy and Molly Kaushal in Folklore, Public Sphere, and Civil Society. The institution of the community Durga Puja in the 18th and the 19th century Bengal contributed vigorously to the development of Hindu Bengali culture.

British Involvement in Durga Puja:

 
The research paper further indicates that "high level British officials regularly attend Durga Pujas organized by influential Bengalis and British soldiers actually participate in the pujas, have prasad, and even salute the deity, but 'the most amazing act of worship was performed by the East India Company itself: in 1765 it offered a thanksgiving Puja, no doubt as a politic act to appease its Hindu subjects, on obtaining the Diwani of Bengal'. (Sukanta Chaudhuri, ed. Calcutta: the Living City, Vol. 1: The Past) And it is reported that even the Company auditor-general John Chips organized Durga Puja at his Birbhum office. In fact, the full official participation of the British in the Durga Puja continued till 1840, when a law was promulgated by the government banning such participation."

Durga Puja Comes to Delhi:

 
In 1911, with the shifting of the capital of British India to Delhi, many Bengalis migrated to the city to work in government offices. The first Durga Puja in Delhi was held in c. 1910, when it was performed by ritually consecrating the 'mangal kalash,' symbolizing the deity. This Durga Puja, which celebrates its centennial in 2009, is also known as the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja currently organized by the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti in the lawns of Bengali Senior Secondary School, Alipur Road, Delhi.




Evolution of the 'Pratima' and the 'Pandal':

The traditional icon of the goddess worshiped during the Durga Puja is in line with the iconography delineated in the scriptures. In Durga, the Gods bestowed their powers to co-create a beautiful goddess with ten arms, each carrying their most lethal weapon. The tableau of Durga also features her four children - Kartikeya, Ganesha, Saraswati and Lakshmi. Traditional clay image of Durga or pratima made of clay with all five gods and goddesses under one structure is known as 'ek-chala' ('ek' = one, 'chala' = cover).

There are two kinds of embellishments that are used on clay -

sholar saaj and daker saaj.


1.Sholar saaj -- 


In this, the pratima is traditionally decorated with the white core of the shola reed which grows within marshlands. 

2. Daker saaj --  

As the devotees grew wealthier, beaten silver (rangta) was used. The silver used to be imported from Germany and was delivered by post (dak). Hence the name daker saaj.

The huge temporary canopies - held by a framework of bamboo poles and draped with colorful fabric - that house the icons are called 'pandals'. Modern pandals are innovative, artistic and decorative at the same time, offering a visual spectacle for the numerous visitors who go 'pandal-hopping' during the four days of Durga Puja.


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