The Day that pays homage to one’s deceased family members also marks the advent of Maa Durga. It is believed that this is the day when the Goddess begins Her journey from Kailash Parbat on Amavasya (New Moon Day). They say various Gods present the Goddess with a variety of gifts:
Brahma gives Kamandalu (Oblong Water Pot)
Vishnu gives Chakra (Disk-like weapon)
Mahadev gives Trishul (3 pointed spear)
Indra gives Vajra (Thunderbolt)
Varuna gives Sankha (Conch Shell)
Vishwakarma gives Kulhar (Handle-less Cup)
Yamraj gives Kaldanda (Weapon of Death)
Vasuki gives Nag (Snake)
Surya gives Khara (Pointed Weapon)
Vayu gives Dhanuswar (Bow and Arrow)
…To the deity.
So many gifts, you see!
Shashthi: Kalaparambho (Pre-Puja Arrangements)
The next big day of the festival is the 6th Day after Mahalaya. This day marks the beginning of the actual celebrations as the deity is believed to have arrived in the mortal world, on this day, with her four children – Ganesha, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
The idol of Mother Durga is welcomed at pandals and devotees celebrate her arrival after a yearlong wait. And the excitement in the air is at an all-time high!
Saptami: Arrival of Kola Bou
On Saptami, “Kola Bou” (Banana Plant) is worshipped and placed beside Lord Ganesha, signifying the arrival of his wife. Nine different plants are brought together and tied to the banana tree – each representing a Goddess – and they are collectively called “Nabapatrika” or “Kolabou”. The turmeric plant signifies Goddess Durga and is dressed in a yellow, red-bordered silk sari.
Whic implies Lord Ganesha gets married on this day, every year?
‘Durga Ashtami’: The Ritual of Rituals
This is considered the most important day of the festival – the day you tend to save your best clothes and make up for. Of course, people still want to stand in queues outside the crowded ‘pandals’ and they make sure they don’t miss the morning ‘pushpanjali’ (flower offering to the God)!
Major rituals on the day include the sacrifice of a bottle gourd symbolising the end of the demon ‘Mahishasura’ who was believed to be half-human and half-buffalo.
Another important ritual includes the worship of girls aged between 7-9 years as the worship of the Goddess is also known as ‘Kumari Puja’.
No prizes for guessing who enjoys the most amidst all the rituals and pretty ladies all around!
Nabami: Pandal Hopping Day
The day commences with ‘Sandhi Puja’ which starts in the last 24 minutes of Maha-Ashtami and extends into 24 minutes of the 9th day. This period – known as ‘Sandhikhan’ – is believed to be the time when the notorious pair of Chando and Munda were slain by Chamunda (believed to be the fiercest form of Durga).
Rituals during this time involve the use of 108 lotus flowers and 108 earthen oil lamps., which means it’s ‘Diya’ all around. Ooops not this one:
Dashami: ‘Shubho Vijayadashami’
The final day of the long festive celebration. Women playfully smear the faces of their companions with sindoor (vermilion) as a mark of the victory of good over evil. ‘Ma Durga’ is immersed with the promise ‘Asche bochhor abaar hobey’ (May the celebrations resume next year) and the belief that she will now return to Mount Kailash to be with Shiva and the cosmos. People greet each other with the salutation ‘Shubho Bijoya’ – meaning ‘The Auspicious Victory’ – and exchange sweets and gifts, amidst the grief of the immortal power departing.
Does this look like a tiring affair to you? For those involved in the celebrations, it is so much more! From the ‘pre-planning’ phase, where meetings are held months before on how best to host their puja, to that final moment when one realises that one needs to get back to work, every individual makes the most of Durga Puja.
It isn’t just about worshipping an idol for days. What unites the hearts of Maa Durga’s devotees is the belief that ‘Maa’ will relieve them from all worries and fill their hearts with joy.
So, this time when you meet your ‘Bangla’ friend, go ahead and discuss the rituals with confidence since you know them a little better by now! And when they do try to Puja-splain to you, just tell them you already know!