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PRANTIC CULTURAL SOCIETY IS AWARDED THE FIRST PRIZE FOR DURGA PUJA 2016 IN DELHI and NCR BY BENGAL ASSOCIATION

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Bengalis. This is also known as Dussehra and Navaratri in other parts of India. Durga is the Goddess of divine power against all evils.

The story goes that Mahisasur, the Buffalo Demon, through years of praying, received blessing from Lord Brahma, that no power can kill him which means he is invincible. But once gaining this power he started ravaging the whole world and killing people. And finally he wanted to uproot the Gods too. The Gods, in dismay, combined their powers to create a beautiful maiden, and each placed his or her most potent weapon in one of her ten hands riding a lion.

Another legend has it that Lord Rama went to rescue his abducted wife Sita from the grip of Ravana, the king of the demons in Lanka. Before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the blessings of Devi Durga. Pleased with Rama’s devotion, Durga appeared before him and blessed him. The battle started on the saptami and Ravana was finally killed on the sandhikshan i.e. the crossover period between ashtami and navami and was cremated on dashami. Since the period of this worship was different from the conventional festival time of spring or basant, this puja is also known as akal-bodhan or worship (bodhan) in an unconventional time (a-kaal).

The traditional image of the Bengali Durga follows the iconographic injunctions of the Shastras. The tableau of Durga with her four children - Kartik, Ganesh, Saraswati and Lakshmi, representing respectively the Protector, the Initiator of the puja, Knowledge and the Provider - signifies the complete manifestation of the goddess.

The festival starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in Aswin. Thousands offer prayers to their ancestors at the city's river banks (ghats), a ritual called Tarpan. A special pre-dawn program of readings from the Chandi and Aagamani songs welcoming the goddess are relayed by All-India Radio. This traditional program, conceived by Birendrakrishna Bhadra, has become an institution.

The festive mood builds up as Dhakis (drummers) from the countryside starts gathering near the city. They beat feathered drums to attract the attention of local Puja organizers. The first recorded Durga Puja seems to have taken place in Nadia district in or around 1606. In those days it was more of a family festival for the rich or landlords. The oldest Puja in Calcutta, as some believes, was used to be the family Puja of Sabarna Chaudhury of Barisha which dates back to 1610. The first publicly organized puja happened in Guptipara of Hoogli district when twelve men were stopped from taking part in a household puja. They formed a twelve man committee and held a puja. Since then these kind of puja arrangement is known as barowari (baro - twelve, yar- friend). Later the term 'barowari' was replaced by 'sarbojonin' (for all men and women). The first community puja in Calcutta was held at Balaram Bose Ghat Road in 1910.

The construction of images starts months back. Kumartuli, a place in north Calcutta, is famous as a place for expert artisans who use clay modeling to build the images of Durga, Mahisasur, Kartick, Ganesh, Saraswati and Lakshmi. This is a wonderful form of art and part of a deep rooted culture. In the recent years, eminent personalities from the painting and sculpture world also did lots of creative work on Durga images. Another group of people starts building a pandal (a covered huge stage) with paper, wood, bamboos, clothes and other materials. They come up with beautiful structures, most of the times they are so beautiful and real that, it tough to believe that these are made for only couple of days or a week. Some constructions are built as replica of world famous structures.

The inauguration starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days - Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, and Mahanavami. The puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Three days of Mantras and Shlokas and Arati and offerings - needs an expert priest to do this kind of Puja. Because of these facts, the number of Pujas held in the family has reduced and Durga Puja has mostly emerged as a community festival.

After the three days of Puja, in Dashami, in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.

Mahalaya: Mahalaya ushers in the aura of Durga Puja. It is only from the day of Mahalaya that the preparations for the Durga Puja reach the final stage. Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It's a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth - "Jago Tumi Jago". This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs. The midnight chants of various hymns of ‘Mahishasura Mardini?remind one of the beginnings of Durga Puja. The day of Mahalaya is also the day of remembrance. On this day, people offer 'tarpan' in memory of their deceased forefathers.


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