Saturday, September 26, 2009

Durga- Katha

‘Durga’, the name literally means fortress. And so is the belief amongst her devotees that Maa Durga would stand as a fortress and guard them against all trials and tribulations. Durga Puja, celebrated through most parts of India, has various names. What is unique about this particular festival is that the entire nation celebrates it together unlike other state specific festivals.While it is known as Durga Puja in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and other northeastern states, it is Navratri in Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala; and Bommai Kolu in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
A little known fact is that Durga Puja, which generally falls anywhere between September to October, actually has its roots somewhere in March-April.
According to legend, there was a king in Bengal, called Sharad Rajah, a staunch Durga devotee, who changed the period of Durga Puja from April to October. After him came Rama, who, before declaring war on Ravana, had performed this puja sometime during this period and made it popular throughout the nation. Sharad Rajah was forgotten and the story of Rama is being followed till date. Since this period was an untimely awakening of the deity, Durga Puja is also called as Akal Bodhan. From Sharad Rajah, the festival got the name of
Sharadiya Pujo, although those who do not know the story might say sharad means
autumn and since the festival is celebrated in autumn, hence the name.
As per another legend, a demon called Mahishasur, had been creating a lot of trouble for everyone in the Trilokas. Since he had received a boon from Brahma that no man can kill him, all the Gods who
tried to fight him were defeated. Angered by this, the Gods came together and a divine light emitted from all their bodies came together to form Durga. She went to war with Mahishasur, which lasted for ten days ending on Bijoya Dashami which literally means victorious tenth day. This particular scene has been immortalised in the form of her idol, ever since Durga Puja celebrations came into being. Incidentally, when Rama defeated Ravana, it was the tenth day of war as well. Hence, the last day emphasises on good winning over evil.
The puja has six significant days — the Mahalaya, Shashti, Maha Shaptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Bijoya Dashami.
Before the Mahalaya, it is a period of shradh which is said to be inauspicious because as per the scriptures Yama —the God of Death, releases all the spirits to come and stay on earth for a 16 day lunar cycle called Pitripokkho or fortnight of the ancestors. Most people perform puja in the memory of their dead relatives during this period.
Mahalaya depicts the end of this bad period, after which starts the auspicious Devipokkho or fortnight of the Goddess. It is believed that during this period she comes visiting her parents and then on Bijoya Dashami she returns to her husband Shiva’s abode.
Durga Puja has always been an integral part of the Hindu culture. It was traditionally followed by almost all families. However, the origin of public celebrations as we see today, can be traced back to the 16th century. With the advent of the
Mughals, Durga Puja became more of a status symbol. Grand celebrations, gala feasts and huge fanfare was part of the very first public Sharadiya Durgotsab festivals organised by Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur and Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya in 1606. In 1757, Raja Nabakrishna Deb held a grand scale puja in Kolkata in honour of Lord Clive, who wanted to thank the deity for his victory in the battle of Plassey.
Opulence and extravagance became an insepara
ble part of the powerful and rich Bengalis. However, there were people who celebrated Durga Puja in their household in a traditional manner, which was characterised by much more devotion and sentiments attached to the festival than the mere ostentation of the rich and more prosperous people. But this school of thought is slowly being overshadowed by the commercialisation and the traditional Durga Puja seems to be losing its essence.

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