Friday, September 10, 2010

Durga Puja: Popular Hindu Festival of India

Durga Puja is one of the popular annual Hindu festivals, which is celebrated with great joy all over India, especially West Bengal in worship of Goddess Durga. It is also known as ‘Navratri’, the festival of nine nights. It is the worship of Shakti or divine power. This great festival is devoted to Goddess Durga, who is the manifestation of absolute power. She is the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya.According to Hindu calendar, Durga Puja is celebrated during the month of Aashwin (September – October). This is the time when the weather is at its best in India. Durga Puja schedule falls on the first 9days of the month of Ashwin. It is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal and in Bangladesh where 10% population is Hindu. It is believed that Goddess Durga, visits her native land with her whole family for 10 days. The period of Durga Puja is considered the most auspicious period of the year. Various types of religious programs are organized during this period.

Legend of Durga Navratri festival is mentioned in many scriptures including Ramayana, Devi Bhagavatham and several Puranas. Durga Puja is celebrated to symbolize the victory of good over evil. On this festival, people belonging to all religions, get together and celebrate it. Celebration of Durga Puja is mentioned in many Indian scriptures including Ramayana, Devi Bhagavatham and several Puranas. It is also presumed that the practice of worshipping Goddess Durga began in Bengal from the 12th century onwards. It has become more of a cultural festival than a religious one. On the occasion of this festival, people decorate their homes; buy new clothes and other things. During the period of the festival, devotees of Goddess Durga fast and they break their fast after the celebration of the festival. After the ten day celebration, the idols of the Goddess are immersed into water with great devotion.

Mythology associated with Durga Puja

This auspicious festival recalls the power of female Shakti symbolized by the Goddess Durga who killed demons to reestablish peace and sanctity on earth. Worship of Goddess Durga is based on myths where Durga symbolizes the divine power. According to the Indian mythology, once upon a time, Mahishasur, the leader of demons, was given a boon by Lord Brahma that no man or deity would be able to kill him but a woman can kill him. He was very pleased with this boon as he thought that no woman in the three worlds would fight with him. Armed with the powers of the boon, he created havoc in the universe and killed people mercilessly. He with his army invaded heaven and defeated the king of Gods, Indra. All the Gods, including Brahma, Vishnu etc became powerless. Finally, the gods came together and contributed their individual energy to form ‘Shakti’ to kill Mahishasur. Thus Goddess Durga, a beautiful woman with ten arms riding on the lion, emerged. She possessed the unique individual powers of ten deities, which were symbolized by her ten arms.

Fully grown and armed by the gods, beautiful Goddess Durga was named "Kattyani" as she is born in the ashram of sage Kattyana. When Mahishasur saw Goddess Durga, he attracted towards her and decided to marry with her, but Goddess Durga put a condition that, if he defeated her in the battle then she would marry with him. He accepted the challenge and a fierce battle took place between Mahishasur and Goddess Durga. She fought with Mahishasur for nine days and nights and on the tenth day, Mahishasur was killed. The nine nights became renowned as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijaya Dashami. It is also believed that, Ravana was also killed by Lord Rama on Vijaya Dashami. Hence, Durga Puja is the celebration of victory of Goddess Durga. She killed Mahishasur therefore, she is also known as Mahishasurmardhini.


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