Goddess Durga is synonymous with Shakti, the divine power to fight against all evils. Durga Puja and Bengal are complementary to each other. Durga puja is an important and biggest celebration here. Earlier the worship of Durga was only the ambit of a few religious individuals. With the passing of time the community Durga Puja established firm and enduring foot among the natives Princes and Zamindars of Bengal during the British regime and was thence celebrated with all its pomp and grandeur.
With the onset of autumn the nine days festival explode entire BENGAL into a riot of rainbow colours. The preparations begin a month or two before the festival time.
The celebration begins from the last day of waning moon of Sharad month. It's the day termed as Mahalaya. The festivity opens on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days - Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. Bengalis believe that during four days of festival Goddess Durga visit her mother from her icy abode in Kailash.
The traditional image of Durga in Bengal is a representation of Shastras. Ma Durga is featured with her four children - the protector Kartik, Ganesh who is worshipped before starting any work, Goddess of Knowledge Saraswati and the provider Goddess of wealth Lakshmi respectively.
The puja has some characteristic features like 'kash' flowers, sweet scent of 'shiuli', 'Saradiya Sankhas' and 'pujor gaan.' Many community pandals are setup in which idol of Ma Durga is installed. All these pandals are filled by sweet fragrance by flowers and incense sticks. The people enjoy ecstasy of the season dancing to the drum beats.
Everyone forgets the hardships and these days give anew fresh boost to life. This festive season gives much needed break from routine life amid the swirl of festivity. The pandals echoes all the three days with Mantras, Shlokas and Aarti. The streets are lighted with thousands of bulbs and display different electrical light shows.
The idols are carried to river in colourful processions. The Dhakis or drummers from the countryside build up the mood of festival. Durga puja concludes with the visarjan of idols of Ma in a river on the tenth day of the celebrations.
Legends associated with Durga Puja
Durga puja is known by different names like Navratri and Dusshera in some parts of India. There is couple of legends associated with Goddess Durga. She is believed as manifestation of Parvati; Shiva's consort. Durga is the Shakti form of Parvati who was created by gods to destroy demoniac forces.
The most popular story says that once upon a time there was a Buffalo demon named Mahisasur who received blessing of invincible by Lord Brahma through years of praying and penance. No one was able to kill him. This blessing turned curse for everyone. He started devastation and killing people; finally wanted to uproot the Gods too. To fight him Gods combined their powers to create a beautiful maiden, with ten hands riding a lion.
People believe that she return every year in Aswin (September-October) and also memorialize the event of invocation of the goddess Durga by Rama before he went into battle with Ravana.