Festival of Durga Puja and Sharad Navaratri

Durga Puja (Devanagari: दुर्गा पूजा) also called Durgotsava, is an annual Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian subcontinent during the period of Sharad Navaratri (in Sanskrit, Sharada means autumn), to pay homage to the Devi Durga. It is particularly popular in the eastern states of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Bihar and Tripura. The festival is celebrated for 10 days, however starting from the sixth day until the ninth day, the Pandals with grand idols of Goddess Durga are open for visitors. The tenth day, also known as Dushami marks the Visarjan (immersion in water) of the idols with grand celebrations and processions. The festival is also celebrated as Navaratri in many others parts of the Country.

According to the Hindu belief, Devi Durga emerged from collective energy of all Gods as an embodiment of Shakti (a supreme divine feminine power) to destroy the demon Mahishasura, who was blessed to not be defeated by any man or God. The name Durga in means ‘the invincible’, and is related to the word Durg (Devanagari: दुर्ग) which means “fortress” – something difficult to defeat.

This powerful form of mother Devi Durga is highly revered in Kolkata, which is why her return is celebrated with much grandeur and ceremonies. Goddess Durga is the epitome of power and energy, but for the Bengali community she is like their own affectionate daughter. On one hand worshiping Devi Durga as valor and power, and on the other hand loving her as ones own daughter are the two features of this puja which makes it so special for the Bengali community.

Durga Puja and Sharad Navaratri Dates 2020

DateOccasionImportant Events
September 17, 2020MahalayaMahalaya
October 17, 2020Day 1 - PratipadaNavaratri, Ghatasthapana, Shailputri Puja
October 18, 2020Day 2 - DwitiyaNavaratri, Chandra Darshana, Brahmacharini Puja
October 19, 2020Day 3 - TritiyaNavaratri, Sindoor Tritiya, Chandraghanta Puja
October 20, 2020Day 4 - ChaturthiNavaratri, Kushmanda Puja, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Upang Lalita Vrat
October 21, 2020Day 5 - PanchamiNavaratri, Skandamata Puja, Saraswati Avahan
October 22, 2020Day 6 - ShashthiNavaratri, Katyayani Puja, Saraswati Puja
October 23, 2020Day 7 - SaptamiNavaratri, Kalaratri Puja
October 24, 2020Day 8 - AshtamiNavaratri, Durga Ashtami, Mahagauri Puja, Sandhi Puja, Maha Navami
October 25, 2020Day 9 - NavamiNavaratri, Ayudha Puja, Navami Homa, Navratri Parana, Vijaya-dashami
October 26, 2020Day 10 - DushamiDurga Visarjan

Durga Puja – Rituals and Practices

Durga puja is a ten-day event, of which the last five days involve certain rituals and practices. The festival begins with Mahalaya, a day on which Hindus perform tarpaṇa by offering water and food to their dead ancestors. The day marks end of Pitri-paksha and start of Devi-paksha. The day also marks the advent of Durga from her mythological marital home in Kailash. The next significant day of the festival is Sashthi (the sixth day), on which devotees welcomes Maa Durga along with her children’s (Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya), and festive celebrations are inaugurated. On the seventh day (Saptami), eighth (Ashtami) and ninth (Navami) days, the Goddess along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya are revered and these days mark the primary days of worship with recitation of scriptures, puja, legends of Durga in Devi Mahatmya, and public visits to decorated and illuminated pandals (temporary structures meant for hosting the puja), among others.

Chokkhu Daan – Day when eyes of Devi Durga Idols are painted

Chokkhu Daan, which means offering the eyes to Maa Durga idol has a special significance. On the occasion of Mahalaya, the Goddess is invited on earth with rituals and so on this day, the eyes are drawn on the idols. Artisans paint the beautiful eyes of the Goddess in the wee hours, and only a senior member from the artisan community is allowed to draw the eyes of Maa Durga. Mahalaya marks the beginning of Durga’s journey to visit her father’s house.

Kalprarambha – Amantran, Adhivas and Bodhan

Shashthi ( the sixth day) marks the beginning of Durga Puja rituals. The ritual of Kalprarambha is performed early in the morning. In most of the years the day of Kalprarambha falls on the Shashthi Tithi. On this day, Maa Durga is invited to stay in Bela tree or in a Kalash (Ghatasthapana or Kalashsthapana). This invitation of Maa Durga is known as Amantran which literally means invitation, and installing her spirit into Bela tree is known as Adhivas which literally means invocation.

These rites of Adhivas and Amantran is followed by Bodhan. Through Bodhan the Devi is awakened. This ritual in Sharad Navaratri is also known as Akal Bodhan. Akal Bodhan means untimely invocation of Goddess Durga. This ritual is still followed as Goddess Durga is worshiped for nine days during Chaitra month, which is known as Chaitra Navratri.

As per some scriptures, Lord Rama performed Akal Bhodon for the very first time, when he awakened Goddess Durga before his battle against demon Ravana, seeking the blessing of Goddess Durga to win the battle. This said to have initiated the tradition of Sharad Navratri and Durga Puja followed by Dussehra celebrations.

Kola Bou – Ritual of Pran Pratishtan

This is a ritual of invoking the presence of “Prana” (life) to the idol of Goddess Durga. This takes place on Saptami (the seventh day), and the ritual starts early in the morning when the devotees bring in Kola Bau (a Banana plantain as symbolic), bathed and draped in saree. This is made to resemble a newly wed bride. She is carried back in a procession to be placed near the idol of the Goddess, followed by ritualistic prayers, aarti and puja. The celebrations will take place for the remaining 4 days of the festival.

Durga Ashtami

Durga Ashtami or Maha Ashtami is one of the most auspicious days of the five days long Durga Puja Festival. It falls on bright lunar fortnight Ashtami tithi of Aswina month according to the Hindu calendar. It is believed that the Goddess Chamunda appeared on this day from the forehead of Mother Durga and annihilated Chanda, Munda, and Raktabija (the demons associates of Mahishasura). The 64 Yoginis and Ashta Shakti or Matrikas (the eight ferocious form of Goddess Durga) are worshiped during the Durga Puja rituals on Maha-Ashtami. The Ashta Sati, also known as Eight Shaktis, are interpreted differently in different regions of India. But ultimately, all the eight Goddesses are incarnations of Shakti. They are the same powerful divine feminine, representing different energies. The Ashta Shakti worshiped during Durga Puja are Brahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasinghi, Indrani and Chamunda.

Durga Navami

Durga Navami or Maha Navami is celebrated as the victory of good over evil. It is the last day of battle between Goddess Durga and demon Mahishasura. Maha Navami begins with Mahasnan (holy bath), followed by prayers to Goddess Durga. It is believed that on Maha Navami Goddess Durga is worshipped as Mahisasura-mardhini – which literally means the slayer of the buffalo demon or Mahishasura. Maha-Navami signifies the day when Goddess Durga made her final assault on demon Mahishasura, and the following morning, on Vijaya-Dushami, triumphed over him. Vijaya-Dushami or Dussehra is also celebrated in the evening of Durga Navami, and the celebration continues till the next day of Dushami.

Dushami or Vijaya-Dushami – Last Day of the Durga Puja

Vijaya-Dushami derives its name from the Sanskrit words, Vijaya meaning victorious or triumphant, and Dushami meaning tenth day. It is believed that on this day, Devi Durga gained victory over the Demon, and restored dharma for the balance on earth. Vijaya-Dushami is also celebrated as Dussehra, both derives its name from the Sanskrit words – vijaya means victory, dusham means tenth, and hara means defeat, thereby signifying the victory of good over evil.

Vijaya-Dushmi is celebrated with processions and Devi Maa Durga’s idol is immersed in many water bodies. Devotees bid farewell to the Goddess on this day and pray for her return again next year. The day is also famous for ‘Dhaak’ and ‘Dhanuchi’ shows. These shows are prominently held after the Maha Aarti of Durga Maa. Woman dress up in traditional sarees and celebrate with Sindoor Khela by smearing sindoor or vermilion powder on each other.

Published by Team MandirOnline