DURGA PUJA-WORSHIP OF SHAKTI

Durga Pujo is here again!  All Bengalis await the arrival of their “daughter” Maa Durga along with her children Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh with the blessings of Lord Shiva.  It is like welcoming her daughter to her “Maika”.

Goddess Durga is the Goddess of Shakti.  She killed Mahishasura the Rakshasa and the Divine won over the Evil and hence the celebrations.  The celebrations of Durga Puja are for 5 days starting, the last day being Vijayadashami.

But the preparation for those 5 days begins months in advance for the Bengalis.  The women start shopping for sarees and fineries.  All the famous Bengali sarees like Jamdani, Kaantha, Baluchari, Taant, etc. are shopped in full enthusiasm.  Now times have changed but during my childhood the kids used to be excited about new clothes as those days new clothes were gifted only birthday and Durga Pujo.

Bengalis are inclined towards cultural activities a lot.  Preparations and rehearsals for cultural programs start 3-4 months in advance.  Practicing Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti, dance and drama becomes a routine every evening for these few months.

For Bengalis like me who have been born and brought up outside Bengal this festival is a way of connecting with the Bengali roots again.  I try to inculcate the same spirit in my children that I had as a kid.

Then comes the Pujo days.  Maa Durga is welcomed with full fervor and rituals.  The chant of Mantras by the Pandit, the “ulus” (the sound made by rolling the tongue) by all the women, the beat of the dhaak welcoming Maa Durga and her children, the first glimpse of Maa is an ethereal experience.  The fragrance of the incense, flowers, sweets makes the Pujo worth a wait.

Huge Puja Pandals are erected which are of different themes and absolutely out of the world.  People throng to the various food stalls, saree stalls during those 5 days.  We can see women decked up in all their fineries and looking absolutely gorgeous.

The hustle and bustle from first day to the fifth day is palpably exciting.  These days simply go in frenzy.  Since morning the women go to the pandals to cut fruits, prepare bhog followed by morning aarti.  During afternoons, there is a huge queue waiting for the bhog.  People fight over chairs, tables.  They relish the bhog in the afternoon heat!  Soon, they retire to their homes for the afternoon siesta to be back with full enthusiasm for the evening celebrations.

Then comes the evening.  Everyone again arrives fully decked up waiting to showcase their talents.  Various cultural programs from the residents and sometimes celebrities are enjoyed by everyone.  The kids present dance, sing songs, recite Bengali poetries.  Dance drama, plays, Robindro Sangeet make the atmosphere divine and festive.

The performance of the “dhaakis”; the men who play the “dhaak” is something to watch for.  The grandeur, the fun, the culture everything is amalgamated in these 5 days.

The last day, i.e., Vijayadashami is also the day of “Sindoor Khela” for the married women who apply sindoor and pray to Maa Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati and the ladies apply sindoor to each other.  Then comes the “Bidaai” time where Maa Durga and her family are bid tearful adieu and taken for visarjan.  One feels sad to see the empty pandal.

But again, we wait for the next year for Maa to come amongst us and we wait for the festivities again!

RITWIKA ROY MUTSUDDI

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