Durga puja is considered the biggest festival in Hindu culture. People wait throughout the year to celebrate Durga puja and in most cases, they go all in to make these five days memorable.
Durga Puja celebrates the victory of goddess Durga over the evil spirit of lord Mahishasura. Hindus believe that this is when Maa Durga visits her parental home on earth from her marital home in mount Kailash. It has a huge festival for all the Hindus yet generally, Bangali Hindus hang tight for Durga puja excitedly. There has been a few set of customs that have been trailed by all the Hindus all through these five days of actual puja. From Shashthi to Dashami, all the customs of Durga puja make it fascinating and more significant for all the followers.
Not only Hindus but people from other religions also get very excited during this festival as they get to see beautiful decorations of the mandap (where they keep the Durga for five days), colours, food and all the rituals performed by the followers. All these five days are filled with different rituals and behind every ritual, there is a story regarding Hindu history.
The actual Durga Puja starts from Shashthi. On this day, the face of the goddess is revealed which is trailed by ceremonies known as bodhon with the beating of the dhaak (a sort of drum) in the evening. It is believed by the followers that this was initiated by Rama to look for the help of the goddess in defeating Ravan.
Upon the arrival of Shaptami the principle puja is known as "Kolabou" or "Nabapatrika". This represents the power of the goddess Durga.
The reason for naming it "Nabapatrika" or "Kolabou" is nine plants of which banana plant is the more significant that are tied to form Nabapatrika. These nine leaves show the power of the female shakti. Brahmani (Banana), Kalika (Colocasia), Durga (Turmeric), Kartiki (Jayanti), Shiva (Wood apple), Raktadantika (Pomegranate), Sokrahita (Ashoka), Chamunda (Arum) and Lakshmi (Paddy). Nabapatrika is taken for a bath in Ganga and placed near Ganesha by covering it in a saree.
Kumari puja takes place on the eighth day, which is known by Ashtami. Adolescent girls are dressed up in new saree and floral ornaments and share the stage with Maa Durga. They are considered to be the living incarnation of Durga. So this is the main highlight of Ashtami.
Nabami is considered the most auspicious day. On this day " Sandhi puja" happens with the execution of "Maharatri". Hundred and eight lights are lit. The priest chants the mantra and "dhaki" plays the drums. It marks the second when Goddess Durga developed in her furious Chamunda structure to kill the evil spirits Chanda and Munda.
Another fun-filled ritual takes place on the evening of Nabami. The ritual is known "Dhunchi nach". Clay pots are filled with burning charcoal. People take it in their hands and start dancing to the beating of dhaak.
While the priests play out the rituals and customs related to love of the goddess, every other person gets the opportunity to offer their appreciation through Pushpanjali or Anjali. Anjali happens on every one of the three days -- Shaptami, Ashtami and Nabami. The favourable hour for Anjali, is considered to be in the morning.
Moha Dashami or Bijoydashami
Durga Puja ends on the tenth day which is known as Dashami or "Bijoya". Followers believe this day is the indication of the triumph of good over evil. Durga represents two forms of female energy -- one is soft and protective, and the other is fierce and destructive.
One of the rituals incorporates Sindur Khela where married ladies (yet not widows) offer vermillion and desserts to the goddess. Traditionally, Hindu ladies, whose spouses are alive, wear the vermillion on their foreheads.
The goddess and her kids are taken out in a parade for Bisorjon in the river, demonstrating her return to Mount Kailash. This marks the end of the Durga puja by bidding farewell to Maa Durga.
Maybe this year’s Durga Puja might be a little different due to Covid-19 , but the happiness, colours and blessings it brings with it will always be the same for the Hindu followers.