November 2012

Indian festivals - Durga Puja

Goddess Durga

All through the year, Bengalis everywhere eagerly await the Durga Puja, and those residing outside West Bengal try to head for their home town for the celebrations. But the large multitude who cannot make it to their native land, let their hair down and celebrate the festival with gusto in whatever part of the country they may be residing.

This is true of the Bengalis residing in Pune as well, and the number of venues where the festival is celebrated in this city has risen considerably in comparison to the handful of venues a few decades ago. One of the reasons for the increasing number of venues has been Pune's rapid growth that has led to the development of the suburbs which, in turn, has led to a scattered Bengali population. In the past, the Bengali population used to be concentrated in a few pockets of the city.

The five-day Durga Puja that commenced from October 20 this year (2012), was celebrated at over 20 venues across Pune.

Apart from paying obeisance to Goddess Durga, it was time for the Bengalis from the city to catch up with friends, socialise, exchange the latest gossip, enjoy the "Puja Bhog" - that is the "Khichuri (porridge of lentils and rice)", and, of course, enjoy the cultural programmes during the evenings. At most venues, there were food stalls that did brisk business selling "Rosogollas" and other delicacies. At the Khadki venue - it is one of the oldest venues celebrating Durga Puja - a book fair was also held by the Kolkata-based Publishers and Booksellers Guild.

According to mythology, Mahishasur, a demon, after a hard penance acquired invincible strength from the gods. He could be killed only by a woman. However, upon acquiring invincible strength, Mahishasur conquered the heaven. The gods, therefore, created a warrior woman with ten arms with each arm carrying a weapon gifted by the gods.

A huge effigy of Ravana stands ready to be set aflame on Dussera day.

Goddess Durga, seated on a lion (or a tiger), went to battle, vanquished Mahishasur, who took the form of a demonic water buffalo, and restored the heaven to gods. Durga Puja is celebrated in her honour, and to celebrate her victory over evil.

The last day of the celebrations is Dussera or Vijayadashami. On the last day, the idols of the Goddess are immersed in the water bodies, and the curtains come down on the celebrations. Dussera is celebrated across the country by burning demon king Ravana in effigies. Again, according to mythology, Lord Rama had invoked the blessings of Goddess Durga to kill Ravana who had abducted his wife, Sita. Lord Rama killed Ravana and to commemorate this event huge effigies of Ravana, stuffed with firecrackers, are erected and are burnt after shooting flaming arrows at them. Dussera was celebrated on October 24.

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