Durga Puja also known as Durga Utsav is one among the traditional Hindu festival celebrated with pomp and joy in South Asia. Durga Puja is a grand affair in eastern states of India and the city of Kolkata drenches in the Bhakti and Seva of Durga Ma. However, with the passage of time, this old carnival has undergone a lot of change in its tradition, culture and the way of celebration.
The Durga Puja festival is celebrated from the sixth to tenth day of a bright lunar fortnight in the Bikram Sambat Calendar period of Ashwin, which falls in the fortnight corresponding to the festival called Devi Paksha. Devi Paksha is headed by Mahalaya the last day of the preceding fortnight Pitri Paksha "Fortnight of the Forefathers," and is ended on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja. Lokkhi Puja is worshiping Goddess Lakshmi, on Kojagori Full Moon Night.
Durga Puja festival condenses the victory of Good over Evil. Durga is worshiped as Durgotinashini, the destroyer of evil and the protector of her devotees. The five days of Durga Puja namely Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami the most important days in Bengal. The first day is spent in the greeting of the Goddess and her four children. The second and third day is spent praising the Ma Durga and the fourth-day is perceived as the victory of Durga over the buffalo demon "Mahishasura." On the final day, the devotees bid a farewell to the Goddess and pray to come soon next year.
In Bengal, Assam, and Odisha, Durga Puja is also called Akalbodhan (early awakening of Durga), Sharadiya Pujo (autumnal worship), Sharodotsab ("festival of autumn), Maha Pujo (grand puja), Maayer Pujo ("worship of the Mother"), or Pujo. However, in Bangladesh, Durga Puja is celebrated as Bhagabati Puja. Durga Puja is called Navaratri Puja in the states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra. It is called Kullu Dussehra in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Bommai Golu in Tamil Nadu, Mysore Dussehra in Mysore, Karnataka, and Bommala koluvu in Andhra Pradesh.
Today's Puja, however, goes far beyond religion. If you have visited Durga Puja pandals in recent years, you can conclude saying that Durga Puja is the largest outdoor art festival on earth. Durga Puja is a real treat to eye watching the performance during these days. In 1900’s Durga Puja pandals were all about bamboos with some flower decoration, but today the art motif extends from handcrafted materials to stylish elements assembled to make a puja pandal.
During 90’s, Durga Puja was only celebrated by rich in the country since they had a lot of fund to praise Goddess Durga. However, it was middle-class families in Kolkata who decided to come together and celebrate Puja for each and every one. They created communities and started collecting funds to set up the Pandal and bring Idol to their locality. This small set up, then started gaining momentum, as small Pandals are now sponsored by various corporate. Despite the fees scored, entry visitors is always free, and people who attend during Bhog are served with the tradition Khichdi and paaish.
Durga Puja is not just limited to India; it is widely celebrated in western countries as well. Durga Puja is organized by communities of Indians in the United States, and there are more than 40 Durga Pujas taking place in the US. Similarly, Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp in Eupore, Australia, and many Indonesian countries. In Malaysia and Singapore, there is a Malaysian Bengalee Association and the Bengali Association of Singapore who celebrates Durga Puja distributing Bhog to everyone.
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