India is a land of festivals. Being a secular nation, there is no such thing as a dearth of issues to rejoice on this land of wonders. From Christmas to Eid ul Zoha, Independence Day to the Cricket World Cup, there may be hardly something that Indians don’t like celebrating. Merely level us in the direction of an event and we’re all for it. However hidden amongst this lengthy listing of celebrations is a gem within the type of Durga Puja, one thing celebrated in its full glory within the Bengali neighborhood.
So, what precisely IS the Durga Puja?Nicely, for the sake of readability, Puja refers to a spiritual pageant. Nevertheless, for us Bengalis, Durga Puja is much less of a ‘Puja’ and extra of the embodiment of the spirit of festiveness. What precisely does that imply? Nicely, allow us to return a couple of millenniums to reply that query.
The custom of invoking the goddess Durga (or the mom, often known as ‘Ma’) is first thought of to have been achieved by Lord Ram earlier than he went forth to battle Ravana, as documented within the epic Ramayana. Nevertheless, the custom lay dormant until concerning the late 1500s, when the landlords in Bengal took it up. It was lastly given its remaining type within the 18th century as Baroyaari (or 12 buddies’) puja, a time period which lastly got here to consult with neighborhood sponsored Durga Pujas held in Kolkata.
Basically, all components of India celebrates this era, however within the type of Navratri. It constitutes of 9 days’ value of fasting, which ends with Dussehra, a day the place an effigy of Ravana is burned as a strategy to present that evils are all the time championed by good as Lord Ram had championed above Ravana.
In Bengal, nevertheless, the which means of those 10 days are fairly completely different.
My earliest reminiscences of Durga Puja are that of waking up in the midst of the night time to hearken to Mahalaya on the radio. It’s a programme that has been airing on the primary day of the Bengali month Ashwin for greater than 7 a long time and four generations of Bengalis, forcing them to get up at four am, one thing I nonetheless do religiously yearly on that individual day. Though the magic of the scent, the half awoken self and figuring out Ma is coming has considerably diminished with the years, the concept of one thing so collectively highly effective that it makes an entire neighborhood stay up for it nonetheless holds a substantial amount of allure nonetheless.
We deal with Ma Durga as one thing extra than simply the goddess. Whereas it’s true that she embodies the uncooked energy (or Shakti) that overcame evil by slaying the evil demon Mahisasur (therefore the time period Mahisasur-mardini), she is way MUCH extra than simply that. The ten days that begin with Mahalaya signify her annual go to to her paternal house in Bengal with four of her kids. As such Ma is, on the identical time, a mom, a spouse, a goddess, and most significantly, a member of our household. We pamper her, we respect her, we love her and we love her. She is greater than only a divinity.
To us Bengalis, she embodies our truest nature. Irrespective of the place a Bengali could be, come Durga Puja, he/she feels a connection to his/her household.
THIS is what it means to rejoice Pujo (a colloquial time period for Durga Puja).
Frankly, it can’t be in comparison with the rest on the earth. However, keep in mind the togetherness one will get when visiting the household, or the heat throughout Christmas, or the sensation you get once you go to your loved ones after a yr away? That’s what Pujo means to a Bengali. It’s greater than celebrating a spiritual pageant. The thought of Pujo is bringing everybody collectively. And what higher means can there be than a mom facilitating all that? We eat, we cry, we discuss, be comfortable and rejoice one thing that’s virtually unprecedented anyplace else on the earth. It doesn’t matter what you faith is. Whether or not a Muslim, a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain or something in between (together with atheists), if you’re a Bengali at coronary heart, Durga Puja is for you. From visiting the tens of hundreds of makeshift podiums (or pandals) for hoisting Ma Durga to having a cup of tea in the midst of the night time (beneath a tree within the native store as a result of it appears to inevitably rain throughout Puja nights as of late, particularly if you’re out at 2 am) to dancing throughout the idol immersion ceremony (known as Bhashan), Durga Puja is one thing that it’s important to expertise at the least as soon as in your life.
Oh, and did I point out delicious luchi and khichudi as lunch throughout Ashtami and the beautiful girls who grace the pandals? Pujo is value it… imagine you me.
And All of it Ends
And as soon as Pujo is completed, whereas we’re all unhappy, we pray for Ma to return safely to her heavenly abode atop the Himalayas. Thus begins the look forward to the following Puja. One other yr to spend earlier than our expensive mom comes again. As a result of Pujo by no means ends, it merely will get shifted by one other yr. In any case, Ma is just like the mom who needs you to be comfortable even when she is gone.
Come, be part of this excellent pageant of togetherness.