The festival called Durga Puja is held every year by Hindus all over the world with high degree of pomp and glory. People spend the main four days of celebrations in the month of October in utmost excitement. Every person looks forward to the time of the year when the rains are over and the skies are clear with the arrival of autumn. The main four days of festivities consist of Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Nabami and Bijoya Dashami. The four days are extended to six with Panchami and Shasti coming before Maha Saptami. Mahalaya heralds the approach of Panchami when the arrival of Devi Durga is welcomed by prayers at the break of dawn. The countdown of Devi Paksha starts with Mahalaya on the day of the new moon and ends with Lakshmi Puja on Kojagori Purnima or the day of the full moon.
The symbolism of Durga Puja
The festival is also known as “Akal Bodhon” which literally means “Untimely Worship”. Rama carried out this ceremony before leaving for Lanka to defeat Ravana and rescue Sita. To the Bengali community, the festival symbolizes the homecoming of Ma Durga, who spends the six days with her parents on the earth. The people felicitate her for her success in the battle against Mahishashura, who is the epitome of all that is evil. The two sons Kartikeya and Ganesha and two daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati accompany their mother, Devi Durga. Down on the earth it is also the time when married women travel to their parents homes in the company of their children. Ma Durga and her children have a good time during these six days as do all Hindus with their families and friends.
Popularity of the festival
The festival gained popularity during the British rule in India. Durga Puja was made into a community puja by the zamindars of West Bengal, who spent lavishly in celebrating the festival. It became a symbol of defiance to British Raj during the Freedom Movement as the festival stood for Hindu culture and traditions. The popularity rose with more and more people participating in the festivities which still being done presently. Only the zamindars have been replaced by local clubs and communities who collect subscription from everybody in their locality and use the money to hold the celebrations. The festival is held in different corners of the world wherever there is a sizeable Hindu population.