Durga Puja – 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.
Mythological origins of Durga Puja
In the ancient times, a demon called ‘Mahishasura’ earned the favor of ‘Lord Brahma’ through extreme austerity and prolonged meditation. Pleased with devotion of the demon, the lord blessed him with a boon that no man or deity would be able to kill him. Empowered with the boon, Mahishasura started his reign of terror over the Earth and Heaven. Now since no man or deity could defeat him, hence a woman, Durga was created. This lady had ten arms, each arm equipped with a weapon.
The demons had little time to admire the radiant visage of their new adversary, for soon she engaged them on the battlefield. First, the army of Chikasura, and then that of Chamara, the two chief commanders were met. They were destroyed in a great battle. Now it’s turn for Mahishasura.
Through magical spells Mahishasura kept changing his shape and form from one to another so as to puzzle the Devi.
Finally the Goddess beheaded the buffalo and from it emerged Mahishasura in his original form. Durga pierced his chest with the trident and relieved the world from the evil power.
Bodhon is performed during the evening of Shashthi. This ritual also includes the unveiling of the face of the idol of Goddess Durga. The ingredients that are required for a Bodhon are: a bel, an earthen pot, a kundohari, four bamboo arrows, a green coconut with stalk, a traditional Indian towel and a dhoti. Other items include a finger ring made of kush, 3 bowls of a mixture of honey, curd, ghee and sugar for oblation. Five leaves, Five gems, Five grains, Sesame, myrobalan, Flowers and Chandmala.
An integral and important part of Durga Puja, Sandhi Puja is performed at the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar day. Sandhi puja lasts from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami till the first 24 minutes of Nabami. During this juncture (the “Sandhikhan”), Durga is worshipped in her Chamunda form. Devi Durga killed, Chando and Mundo, the two asuras at “Sandhikhan” and thus acquired the name of “Chamunda”.
With a smoking mixture of camphor, incense, tinder and coconut husk, called ‘dhuno’, poured inside wide-brimmed clay pots, called ‘dhunachi’, the devotee dances by resting the pots in his hands and sways to the beats of dhak(drums) in front of the goddess.
Maha Navmi Havan
After the victory over Mahisasura during the Shondhi Pujo, offerings are made to Devi Durga in the form of Yajna or Havan on NAvmi morning. Yajna, according to Hindu tradition brings peace. In order to retaliate peace in heaven and earth after the ten day long fight, Yajna is performed. This is also the last ritual in the Pujo before the Dashami Visarjan.
May her blessings remove all obstacles from your path of life as she removes the darkness from the universe….
Happy Durga Puja!
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