Vanquishing evil with Goddess Durga
The ten-day festival is celebrated with great devotion.
It’s easy to forget the chaos that is Kolkata during the Durga Puja celebrations. Fairy lights and flowers adorn every street corner as the city prepares to welcome its favorite goddess Durga amidst gaiety, dancing, singing and sacred chants.
This year, from October 11, devotees in the city—and around the world—will join each other in fasting, feasting and worshipping the goddess who centuries ago, Lord Rama evoked before going to war with the demon king Ravana.
The akal bodhan worship of Goddess Durga
Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals in the country—celebrated over ten days—though the last six days, Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami hold special significance.
Observed in the Hindu month of Ashwin, it commemorates Prince Rama’s invocation to the ten handed goddess before setting off to avenge his wife Sita’s kidnapping by the demon king Ravana. This autumnal ritual was different from the conventional Durga Puja usually celebrated in the spring. This celebration was also known as akal-bodhan or out-of-season worship. Legend has it that Lord Rama worshipped the Mahishasura Mardini or slayer of the buffalo-demon, by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps.
Devotion holds sway
There’s no place like Kolkata during Durga Puja, with thousands of pandals dotting the city, many created after months of painstaking artistry. Each year, there’s hot competition between pandal organizers trying to outdo each other with their innovative designs and themes.
Traditionally the pandals at Bagbazaar, Kalighat, Kumartuli, College Street and Jodhpur Park draw throngs of devotees but reverence and piety are evident even at the smallest pandals when the aarti is performed, prayers are chanted and bhog is received as women smear each other with sindoor. Ultimately Durga Puja is the story of the triumph of good over evil, a theme that appeals to us all.
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