durja puja 2021

Durga puja 2021 starts with the Navratri on 7th October and ends on Friday 15th October, 2021. Often it happens that different festivals are celebrated in different parts of the country at the same time. One such occasion is Durga Puja. It is celebrated in the eastern parts of India, around the same time, when in the western parts, people are celebrating Navratri. 

What is Durga Puja?

Also called Durgotsava, Durga Puja is a Hindu festival where people pay respect and worship Goddess Kaali (a form of Goddess Durga). Though celebrated across India, it is more popular in the eastern and northeastern states of India, particularly in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, and Mithilanchal (Bihar). People belonging to this diaspora across the country, wherever they may be also celebrated this festival with the same fervour. The festival is celebrated outside India also, especially in Bangladesh and Nepal.

When is Durga Puja 2021 celebrations?

Yamunotri Temple:

Navratri starts: Thursday, 7 October 2021
Navratri ends: Friday, 15 October 2021
Celebrates: Victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasur
Celebrated in: Ashvin month of Hindu calendar

Durga Puja in 2021 is celebrated during the ‘shukla’ paksh of the month of Ashvin, as per the Hindu calendar, which as per the Gregorian calendar falls in the month of September or October. Though celebrated for 10-days, from ‘ekam’ to ‘dashmi’, the last 5-days are of great significance. The last day of Durga Puja coincides with Dussehra or ‘Bijoya Dashomi’.

Source: https://static.toiimg.com/thumb/74946519/oie_2111165qSixbLY.jpg?width=1200&height=900

How do people celebrate Durga Puja?

During these days people worship Goddess Kaali at home. At several places, huge pandals are erected, where people install huge idols of Maan Kaali. At these pandals other than worshipping the Goddess several literary and cultural activities are competitions are also performed. People recite scriptures, perform traditional dance and music, and encourage children.

Why is Durga Puja celebrated?

As per Hindu scriptures, Durga Puja symbolizes the victory of Goddess Kaali against the buffalo demon, ‘Mahishasura’. This way, the festival signifies the victory of good over evil. The festival coincides with the harvest season as well. So, the festival celebrates the new crop and a new life and creation.

The Legend

During the ‘Satyug’, the devtaas were in constant war against the demons. There was a demon, called ‘Mahishasura’. The word ‘mahisha’ means buffalo and ‘asur’ means demon. So, Mahishasur means Buffalo demon. Mahishasura was a very powerful demon. He had a boon that no man could kill him. He also had the ability to change shapes. So, encouraged by these boons, he challenged devtaas and defeated them.
Defeated by Mahishasura, all devtaas decide to fight him together. The ‘tridevs’ (Bramha, Vishnu, and Shiva) came together to create a powerful female form, who had ten hands. The form appeared from the holy water of river Ganga. All the gods combined their divine energies to give her a physical form. That’s how Goddess Durga (also called Mahamaya) was born. The word ‘durg’ in Sanskrit means a fortress, something that is difficult to defeat or pass through’. So, ‘Durga’ means invincible, someone who cannot be defeated.
Another name for Durga is ‘Durgatinashini’, which can be broken down into Durgati + Nashini, and means one who eliminates suffering. The name ‘Durga’ signifies someone who protects her devotees and destroys evil forces in the world.
Now armed with the blessings of gods and their divine weapons, Goddess Durga rode into the battle sitting on a lion. There was a fierce battle between the two, and finally, Goddess Durga killed Mahishasur with her Trishul (trident), and earned the title of ‘Mahishasuramardini’, which means ‘the killer of Mahishasur’.

How is the festival celebrated? 

Durga puja is a ten-day event, starting from the first day of Navratri (ekam tithi) to the 10 th day (dashmi) of Ashvin month, during the shukla paksh, which is the phase of the increasing moon. Out of these 10 days, the last 5 days are of great importance and involve certain rituals and practices.

This year in 2021, Durga puja begins on the ‘panchmi’ (fifth day) of the Ashvin month. It is celebrated as Mahalaya, a day dedicated to the ‘pitru dev’ (dead ancestors). On this day, Hindus perform ‘tarpana’ and offer water and food to their ancestors. This day also symbolizes the advent of Goddess Durga from her mythological marital home in Mount Kailash.
The next day, which is the ‘sashti’ (sixth day) is very significant. On this day, people bring idols of Goddess Durga and install them in the pandals. This is the day when the main festivities start.
The next three days – from ‘saptami’ (seventh day) to ‘navami’ (ninth day), people worship Goddess in her various forms as Durga (the goddess of Shakti), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), and Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and literature). In addition to worshipping different forms of Goddess, people also worship Lord Ganesh (god of intelligence and trouble-shooter), and Lord Kartikeya (god of war). These 3 days are the main days of the festival where people visit the nicely decorated ‘Durga pandals’ and offer their prayers to the goddess. Various cultural and literary activities are performed during these days, where in addition to these activities; people recite Holy Scriptures and legends of Durga. People visit their friends and relatives and wish them.

Rituals performed before the Durga Puja:

Before the puja starts, the following rituals are performed: 

  • Bodhana: Meaning awakening. This ritual involves performing ritual rites to awaken goddess Durga and invite her to visit our pandals a respected guest. This ritual is typically done on the ‘sashti’, which is the 6th day of the Navratri. 
  • Adhivasa: Meaning inviting. This ritual involves anointing goddess Durga with offerings, where each offering represents one or the other subtle forms of her. This ritual is performed on the ‘sashti’ itself.
  • Navapatrika Snaan: This ritual is performed on the ‘saptami’ (7th day). People gather in the pandals early morning, to perform this ritual. A bunch of 9 plants is taken, and a yellow thread is used to tie these plants with the twigs of the white Aparajita plant.  Each of these 9 plants represents one form of goddess Durga. So, nine plants represent the 9 forms. This bunch is called ‘Nabapatrika’ (meaning 9 leaves). This Nabapatrika is given a pre-dawn bath in the ‘gangajal’ (holy water of river Ganga). After this, a mirror is placed in front of the idol. The reflection in the mirror is given a bath, which is called ‘Maha Snaan’.
  • Sandhi puja and Ashtami pushpanjali: The next day, i.e. ‘ashtami’ is the busiest day. The day begins with a grand pushpanjali. As per the scriptures, when Goddess Durga, was involved in the fierce war with the buffalo demon Mahishasura, two demon brothers ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’ entered the battlefield. At this moment, Maan “Kaali” (another form of Goddess Parvati) appeared. A fierce battle started between them and it was the cusp moment (ending of the ‘ashtami’ and beginning of the ‘navami’) when Maan Kaali killed Chanda and Munda. After this, she got another name, Goddess ‘Chamunda’. It is this auspicious moment, when the universe got freedom from these demons, that people perform ‘sandhi puja’. This puja involves worshipping the goddess by offering 108 lotuses and lighting 108 lamps. This ritual is performed in the last 24 minutes of ‘ashtami’ and the first 24 minutes of ‘navami’. This way, the puja is performed for 48 minutes, which commemorates the climax of this fierce battle. Red sindoor (vermilion) is smeared on the surrogate effigy, which symbolizes the blood spilled. Food is offered to the goddess as bhog, which is then distributed among the devotees as prasad. 

In many places, people perform ‘Kumari Pooja’ where they invite pre-pubescent girls, wash their feet, apply tilak on their forehead and worship them. Then, they are offered some prasad and gifts or cash. People take their blessings.

  • Homa and bhog: On ‘navami’, people perform ‘home’ or ‘hawan’ (the ninth day of the festival. In this ritual people offer ‘bhog’ to Agni dev (Fire god) as an oblation. On this day, people perform ‘Dhunuchi Naach’. This is one of the fun-filled rituals, where people take burning charcoal in clay pots and dance to the beats of dhaak (drum). Some people perform ‘Kanchika’ or ‘Kumari Pooja’ on Navami. 
durga puja celebrations
Source: https://www.oneindia.com/ph-big/2018/10/a-woman-performs-dhanuchi-dance-during-maha-navami-celebrations-the-north-bombay-sarbojanin_1540189628230.jpg
  • Sindoor khela and immersion: The last day of Durga Puja, which is the ‘dashmi’, is celebrated as ‘Vijayadashmi’, or “Bijoya Dashomi’ (as people say in typically Bangla language). This day is marked by ‘sindoor khela’ (play with sindoor), where women smear the traditional red sindoor (vermillion) on the idols of the goddess and also apply sindoor on other ladies. Applying sindoor signifies wishing each other a happy and blissful married life. Historically, this particular ritual has been restricted to married women only.

The dashmi is the day when Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura and then returned to Mount Kailash. So, to mark that occasion, people take the idols of Goddess Durga in a ceremonious procession to a water body, where the idols are immersed. During the procession, people sing and dance and chant slogans praising the goddess. After the immersion, it is believed that Goddess Durga returns to her mythological marital home at Mount Kailash, taking away all the sorrows of people and giving them gifts of joy and happiness. On this day, people go and meet their family, friends, and relatives, distribute sweets, and exchange gifts and wishes. This marks the end of the festival.


FAQs:

Q. 1: When is Durga Puja celebrated?
Ans: Durga Puja is celebrated during the 10 day period from ‘ekam’ to ‘dashmi’ of the Ashvin month of the Hindu calendar during the ‘shukla’ paksh.

Q. 2: What is the meaning of Mahishasur?
Ans: The word ‘mahisha’ means buffalo and ‘asur’ means demon. So, Mahishasur means Buffalo demon.

Q. 3: What is the meaning of Mahishasuramardini?
Ans: Mahishasuramardini means ‘the killer of Mahishasur’.

Q. 4: What boon did Mahishasur have?
Ans: Mahishasur had a boon that he could only be killed by a woman.

Q. 5: Which are the significant days in Durga Puja?
And: Though a 10-day festival, in Durga Puja, the last 5 days, from panchmi to dashmi are very significant.

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