India is renowned and famous for various festivals held throughout the year. The festivals foster unity and prosperity among the millions of people residing within the country. They intend to bond mankind with the spirituality of the God Almighty. People of different religions, genders, and ages assemble to celebrate the festivals with grandeur and amusement.
Durga Puja celebrated recently, is one of the prominent festivals of Eastern India. The Puja (worship) is to offer homage to Goddess Durga, the symbol of strength and valor. The festival marks the demolition of Mahishashura, the demon king, by the powerful Goddess Durga.
It is believed that the demons were creating havoc in heaven led by evil and dangerous Mahishashura. The Gods were unable to cope up with the desolation caused by the demons and seek the help of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Lord Brahma, the supreme and superpowers of the Universe. They created Goddess Durga through their divine power and equipped her with various weapons to fight against the demons. The tussle between Durga and Mahishashura continued for ten days. On the tenth day, Durga was able to destroy the evil power of Mahishashura and saved the world and heaven from the treacherous attack of the demons.
Goddess Durga also is known as Parvati, had been married to Lord Shiva. She has two daughters Saraswati and Lakshmi and two sons Ganesha and Karthik. She rides on a lion and has ten hands.
Every year it is believed that Durga accompanied by her sons and daughters come into Earth amongst her devotees to bless them with peace, prosperity, goodwill, and health. She stays for five days and returns to her home in the Himalayas on day fifth. The day on which the festival initiates is called Sashthi (the sixth day), followed by Saptami (seventh day), Ashtami (eighth day), Nabami (ninth day) and Dashami (tenth day).
Every year number of skilled artists creates hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga. They spent days after days barring heat and rains to construct lively figurines of the Goddess. It is wonderful to watch the craftsmen carving out the figures and painting them with various colors. They drape the idols with colorful attires of eastern India called the saris. The idols depict the defeat of Mahishashura by Goddess Durga with the Trident or the Trishul.
The five days of the festival are celebrated with enthusiasm and rigor. It is customary to wear new clothes and shoes for all five days. As part of the ritual, families and closed ones exchange new clothes or gifts as a mark of ushering new light in our lives and put an end to all the evil around. Many people distribute new clothes to orphanages, poor children and old homes. It is a festival to celebrate happiness with all.
The idol of Goddess Durga is kept inside ornately decorated temporary huts or pandals. She is offered flowers and food by her devotees. People flock in large numbers to offer their prayers and seek her blessings.
Various cultural programs are held in the pandal premises for entertainment and recreation. Fairs are also sometimes organized near the pandals for amusement.
The immersion of Goddess Durga in the holy river Ganges is another interesting part of the celebration. Accompanied by drum beats and chanting of the Mantras, Goddess Durga is bid farewell on the tenth day Dashami as she returns back to Lord Shiva.
Durga Puja is a festival to symbolize power, energy, force, and purity wherein people engage with each other for success and well-being.