Honoring the Warrior Goddess
India’s Durga Puja Celebration
By Volker Poelzl
|A priest performing a ceremony during Durga Puja. @Volker Poelzl.|
India is a land of holy places, holy rivers, and large religious festivals. Almost every aspect of life is infused with religious gestures, rites, and meaning. The importance of Hinduism as India’s most dominant religion extends far beyond the private sphere into the public realm. Every year hundreds of religious festivals and pilgrimages are celebrated all across this vast and diverse country, and being able to witness or participate in one or several of them is a great cultural or even spiritual experience for foreign visitors. Among India’s most colorful and lively festivals is Navratri (Festival of Nine Nights), and Durga Puja is one of the most popular versions of this festival celebrated in Eastern India, especially in the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) in the state of West Bengal. For five days each year, the city takes on a festive atmosphere and comes to a complete standstill, when temporary temples spring up all over the city to honor the Hindu goddess Durga. Hundreds of thousands of worshippers from Kolkata and all over India visit these temples to pay their tribute.
The Story Behind Durga Puja
Navratri is a celebration of the victory of good over evil ,with several variations of the tradition all over India. Durga Puja specifically celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the bull demon Mahishasura. According to legend, Durga was summoned by the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to defeat the demon, who had set out to conquer the world. To help her win the battle, each of the major Hindu gods gave Durga weapons and other objects to assist her. Durga went into battle mounted on a lion and on the tenth day of the battle, she finally killed the demon. Navratri commemorates the nine days and nights of the battle between good and evil, but Durga Puja is celebrated only on the last five days, when according to legend, Durga leaves her heavenly abode to visit earth each year. Durga Puja attracts many visitors from all over India as well as foreign tourists, but the festival is especially popular among the people of West Bengal. The festival is a special occasion for Bengali families to come together from all over the country and celebrate with their relatives and communities.
At the center of the Durga Puja celebration is the "pandal," a temporary pavilion and place of worship, where ceremonies and rituals take place. The city issues over a thousand permits for pandals in public spaces each year, and during they spring up in every neighborhood across Kolkata. Pandals are usually built with bamboo slats and papier-mâché and are richly painted and decorated. Artisans work for months to build them and make beautiful clay idols of the goddess and her family. The creation of clay idols is an especially sought-after craft, and only the most expert artisans are hired to do so. Each pandal has an altar, where the idols of Durga and other gods are displayed. Durga is usually depicted with eight or ten arms, sitting on a lion, with the defeated demon beneath her. She is usually accompanied by the idols of her sons Ganesh and Kartik, and her daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. These clay sculptures are richly dressed and decorated with flower garlands and jewelry.
Some of the pandals are small and simple, funded by communities and neighborhood associations through neighborhood fund-raising, but a growing number are very ostentatious and expensive, often sponsored by large businesses and corporations. Each pandal usually has a dedicated theme that varies from year to year and are often replicas of famous Indian temples. They may also have an ethnic theme or represent famous landmarks around the world. There is an ongoing competition between the different puja committees to come up with creative and unexpected themes each year to attract the most visitors, and some pandals of past Durga Puja celebrations have gained notoriety for daring and untraditional designs, sometimes provoking criticism from purists.
|Pandal-hopping is a favorite night-time activity during the festival. @Volker Poelzl.|
A Time of Devotion and Merriment
For Hindus "Puja" is a form of worship of a god through prayers, rituals, and songs. Even though Durga Puja is a merry feast and social event with many secular elements, it is inherently a religious celebration to honor the goddess Durga. During the five-day event people pay tribute to the goddess, people make offerings and honor her in ceremonies, prayers, and songs. Each of the five days of the festival has different ceremonies and rituals associated with it which are performed by a priest at each pandal before large crowds of worshippers. Most people attend their own community pandal for daily ceremonies, music, dances, and food, but they also visit other pandals. This so-called "pandal -hopping" is a well-established tradition. Families dress up in their best clothes as they visit pandals all over the city and offer their prayers before the idol of Durga. There is live music and dancing, and the streets are crowded with pandal-hoppers and street vendors offering crafts, knickknacks, and snacks, as well as henna hand paintings loved by the local ladies. Durga Puja is a time for family members to come together from all over the country and to invite guests into their homes to enjoy special seasonal dishes. It is also a time when people go shopping and buy new clothes, jewelry, and household items as well as gifts.
The Conclusion of Durga Puja: The Immersion
|A group of men lower a clay idol of the goddess Durga into the river. @Volker Poelzl.|
On the fifth day of Durga Puja, communities gather for a last religious ceremony before the idols of Durga are paraded through the streets and then transported to the Hooghly River for immersion. This symbolizes the end of Durga’s five-day sojourn on earth, after which she returns to her heavenly abode. Traffic to the riverbank comes to a standstill that night, as hundreds of hired trucks transport the idols of the displays to the river, together with dozens of revelers. As the crowd watches on, often accompanied by musicians, the clay idols of Durga and the other gods are carefully unloaded and carried down to the river, where they are gently lowered into the water. Then the idols are picked up by the current and slowly swept downstream. Over the next few days all the pandals in the city are dismantled, only to be reborn in a new shape and with a new glamour the following year.
For More Information
When to Go
Durga Puja is celebrated in late September/early October each year. October is a good time to visit India, since foreign tourists do not yet crowd India’s main attractions, the weather is mostly dry, and the heat is beginning to subside. Still, late monsoon rains can hit Kolkata during Durga Puja, leading to extensive flooding and traffic jams.
It is best to arrive a few days before the beginning of Durga Puja, so you can get your bearings before the city shuts down for the festival. This should give you enough time to find out which restaurants, shops, and cafés are open, and how to get around town during the festival. During the festivities government offices and banks are closed, commerce has irregular opening hours, and restaurants have long lines. Plan ahead.
How to Get to Kolkata
You can fly to Kolkata from Delhi, but if you have time, take the train and visit several great destinations on the way, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the holy city of Varanasi. Durga Puja is a popular time for family reunions and also attracts tourists from all over India. Train and airline tickets may sell out quickly, and hotels may be booked more heavily than usual. It is a good idea to make advance reservations to make sure you have a pleasant place to stay.
Getting around Kolkata
If you are staying near the city center, traveling by cab is the best way to get around Kolkata. If you travel in a group, you might want to consider hiring a vehicle and driver for a few days to visit several pandals all over the city. There are several English-language newspapers in Kolkata, and during Durga Puja you will find articles about the most spectacular pandals and cultural events:
The Telegraph, www.telegraph.in
For more information about Durga Puja, visit these websites:
Volker Poelzl is a Living Abroad Contributing Editor for TransitionsAbroad.com.
Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival celebrates all over India to worship the Hindu Goddess Durga to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura.
Essay on Durga Puja
We have provided below some essay on Durga Puja under various words limit in order to help students. Now-a-days, teachers in the school or college generally follow this strategy of writing essays or paragraphs in order to enhance student’s skill and knowledge about any topic. All the Durga Puja essay provided here are written by the professional content writer in easy and simple sentences. Students can select any of the essays given below according to their need and requirement:
Durga Puja Essay 1 (100 words)
Durga Pooja is one of the most important festivals of Hindu. It is celebrated every year by the people of Hindu religion with great enthusiasm and belief. It is a religious festival which has various significances. It falls every year in the autumn season.
What is Special
During this festival, Goddess Durga is worshiped by the people for all nine days. At the end of festival the image goddess is immersed in the water of river or tank. Some people keep fast for all days, however some people keep fast only on first and last days. People believe that doing so will bring lots of blessings from goddess Durga. They believe that Durga mata will keep them away from all the problems and negative energy.
Durga Puja Essay 2 (150 words)
Durga Puja is the religious festival of India. It is celebrated by the Hindu people all over the country with lots of happiness. Everyone perform this puja very nicely in cultural and traditional way at many places in the city or villages. It is one of the joyous occasions especially for the students as they take some relief from their hectic life because of holidays. It is celebrated wonderfully, at some places a big fair is also held.
Significance of Durga Puja
Durga Puja is a nine days long festival. Days of Durga pooja celebration varies according to the place, custom, people’s capacity and people’s belief. Some people celebrate it for five, seven or full nine days. People start worship of Durga statue on ‘Shashti’ which ends on the “Dashami”. Some people in the community or society celebrate it by decorating a ‘pandal’ in the nearby regions. In these days, all the nearby temples become full of devotees especially in the morning. Some people do worship at home with all the arrangements and go for statue immersion to the river Ganga at last day.
Durga Puja Essay 3 (200 words)
India is a land of fairs and festivals. It is so called because people of various religions live here and they all celebrate their fairs and festivals all through the year. It is a holy place on this planet where various holy rivers run and big religious festivals are celebrated. Navaratri or Durga pooja is a festival (means festival of Nine Nights) celebrated by the people especially in the Eastern India. It brings a happy festive atmosphere all over the country. People go to the temple or worship goddess Durga at home with full preparation and devotion. Devotees worship goddess Durga for their well being and prosperous life.
Durga Puja Celebration
Navaratri or Durga pooja is celebrated to tribute the victory of good over evil. It is believed by the devotees that at this day goddess Durga got victory over the bull demon Mahishasura. She was called by the God Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to kill demon and make the world free of him. After many days of battle she finally killed that demon on the tenth day, the day is called as Dussehra. The real meaning of Navaratri is the nine days and nights of battle between goddess and devil. Durga Puja fair attracts a huge crowd of devotees and visitors including foreign tourists at one place.
Durga Puja Essay 4 (250 words)
Durga puja is one of the main Hindu festivals. It is celebrated every year with lots of preparations to honor of goddess Durga. She is the daughter of Himalaya and Menaka and a transition of sati who later got married to the Lord Shiva. It is considered that this puja was started first time when Lord Rama worshipped the Goddess Durga to get power to kill Ravana.
Why Goddess Durga is Worshipped
Goddess Durga is worshipped in Navaratri because it is considered that she killed a demon Mahishasura after 10 days and nights of battle. She has ten hands with a different weapon in each. People got relief from that asura because of the goddess Durga that’s why they worship Her with full devotion.
Goddess Durga is worshipped all nine days of the festival. However days of worship varies according to the place. Devotees of Mata Durga keep fast for all nine days or only first and last days. They decorate and worship the statue of goddess by offering Prasad, jal, kumkum, nariyal, sindoor, etc according to the capacity with great devotion. Everywhere looks very beautiful and environment becomes clean and pure. It seems that really goddess Durga makes a round to everyone home and blesses Her devotees. It is believed that worshipping Mata provides delight, prosperity, removes darkness and evil power. Generally people perform puja for three days (called as Saptami, Astami and Navami) after keeping fast for long 6, 7, and 8 days. They offer food, fruit and dakshina to the seven or nine unmarried girls in the morning in the clean manner in order to make goddess Durga happy.
Immersion of Statue
After puja, people perform immersion ceremony of the statue in the holy water. Devotees return to their homes with sad faces and pray to Mata to come next year again with lots of blessings.
Durga Puja Essay 5 (300 words)
Durga Puja is one of the main festivals of the Hindus religion. It is also known as Durgotsava or Sharadotsav of which six days are observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Astami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami. Goddess Durga is worshipped all through the days of this festival. It generally falls in the Hindi month of Aswin. Goddess Durga has 10 hands with different weapon in each. People worship goddess Durga to be safe from the evil power.
About Durga Pooja
Durga Puja is celebrated from sixth to ninth day of bright lunar fortnight (shukla paksha) in Ashvin. Tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashami as at this day goddess Durga got victory over a demon. This festival marks the victory of goodness over evil power, a buffalo demon Mahishasura. People in Bengal worship Durga as Durgotinashini means a destroyer of evil as well as a protector of devotees.
It is widely celebrated at many places in India such as Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Mithila, Jharkhand, Odisha, Manipur, West Bengal, etc. At some places it becomes five-days annual holiday. It is a religious and socio-cultural event being celebrated for years with complete devotion by the devotees. A huge Durga puja fair also held in the Ram-lila ground which attracts a big crowd of people.
Environmental Impact of Durga Puja
Due to the people’s negligence, it impacts the environment to a huge level. The materials used in making and coloring (such as cement, plaster of Paris, plastic, toxic paints, etc) the sculptures of Mata Durga causes pollution to the local water resources. The immersion of the statues directly pollutes the river water at the end of festival. In order to reduce the environment impacts of this festival, there should be efforts from everyone’s end that the use of eco-friendly materials by the artisans in making statues, devotees should not immerse the statues directly in Ganga water and search out some safe ways to perform the rituals of this festival. Commercialization of the Hindu festivals in the 20th century has created major environmental issues.
Durga Puja Essay 6 (400 words)
Durga Puja is a religious festival during which a ceremonial worship of goddess Durga is performed. It is an important festival of India. It is a traditional occasion which reunites people into the one Indian culture and customs. Varieties of rituals are performed all through the ten days of festival such as fast, feast and worship. People perform statue immersion and Kanya pujan in the last four days which car called as Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. People worship a ten-armed goddess riding the lion with great enthusiasm, passion and devotion.
Story and Legends of Durga Puja
There are various stories and legends of Durga puja which are mentioned below:
- It is considered as, once there was a demon king, Mahishasura, who was ready to attack on Gods of heaven. He was too powerful to defeat from God. Then an eternal power was created by the Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh which was named as Durga (a magnificent woman having ten hands with special weapons in each). She was given eternal power to destroy demon Mahishasura. Finally She killed that demon on tenth day called as Dussehra or Vijayadashami.
- Another legend behind Durga puja is Lord Rama. According to the Ramayana, Ram had performed a chandi-puja in order to get blessings of mata Durga to kill Ravana. Rama had killed Ravana on tenth day of Durga puja called as Dussehra or Vijayadashami. So, Durga puja is the symbol of victory of goodness over evil power forever.
- Once Kautsa (son of Devdatt) has decided to offer gurudakshina to his guru named Varatantu after completing his education however he was asked to pay 14 crore gold coins (one for each 14 sciences he studied there). In order to get the same he went to the king Raghuraj (ancestor of Rama) however he was unable because of the Vishvajit sacrifice. So, Kautsa went to Lord Indra and he again summoned Kuber (god of wealth) to rain the required gold coins over “shanu” and “apati” trees in Ayodhya. In this way, Kautsa got gold coins to offer to his guru. That event is still remembered through a custom of looting leaves of the “apati” trees. At this day, people gift these leaves to each other as a gold coin.
Significance of Durga Puja
The festival of Navaratri or Durga puja has various significances. The meaning of Navaratri is nine nights. Tenth day is known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra. It is the day when goddess Durga got victory over a demon after nine days and nine nights long battle. Goddess Durga is worshipped by the people to get strength and blessings. Worshipping Goddess Durga helps devotees to remove negative energy and negative thoughts as well as get the peaceful life. It is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama over evil Ravana. People celebrate this festival by burning the big statue of Ravana and fireworks at night of Dussehra.
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