The Story/ Legends of Durga Puja
Lord Rama, invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana.
Creation Of Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga represents a united front of all Divine forces against the negative forces of evil and wickedness. The gods in heaven decided to create an all-powerful being to kill the demon king Mahishasur who was ready to attack them. At that very moment a stream of lightning dazzled forth from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and it turned into a beautiful, magnificent woman with ten hands. Then all the gods furnished her with their special weapons. The image of Durga, the Eternal Mother destroying the demon, Mahishasur is symbolic of the final confrontation of the spiritual urge of man with his baser passions.
As per our great epic Mahabharat, Pandavas after wandering in the forest for 12 years, hung their weapons on a Shami tree before entering the court of king Virat to spend the last one year in disguise. After the completion of that year on Vijayadashmi the day of Dassera they brought down the weapons from the Shami tree and declared their true identity. Since that day the exchange of Shami leaves on Dassera day became symbols of good, will and victory.
This festival has immense mythological significance. As per Ramayan, Ram did "chandi-puja and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana, the ten-headed king of Lanka who had abducted Seeta and had charmed life. Durga divulged the secret to Ram how he could kill Ravana. Then after vanquishing him, Ram with Seeta and Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on Diwali day.
Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, insisted on his guru Varatantu to accept "gurudakshina", after finishing his education. After lots of persistence his Guru, finally asked for 14 crore gold coins, one crore for each of the 14 sciences he taught Kautsa. Kautsa went to king Raghuraj, who was known for his genorisity and was an ancestor of Rama. But just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. So, the king went to Lord Indra and asked for the gold coins. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, "Make a rain of gold coins fall on the "shanu" and "apati" trees round Raghuraja's city of Ayodhya." The rain of coins began to fall. The king Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, who gave 14 crores gold coins to his guru. The remaining coins were lavishly distributed to the people of Ayodhya city. This happened on the day of Dussehra. In remembrance of this event the custom is kept of looting the leaves of the "apati" trees and people present each other these leaves as "sone" (gold).
Mythology of Durga Puja
known as the divine spouse of Lord Shiva
According to Hindu mythology a demon named Mahishasura, earned the favor of Lord Shiva after a long and hard penance. Lord Shiva, impressed with his devotion, blessed him that no man or deity would be able to kill him and that only a woman can kill him. Mahishasur was very pleased with this boon as he thought that a woman can never defeat him. Arrogant Mahishasura started his reign of terror over the Universe and people were killed mercilessly. He even attacked the abode of the gods and conquered the heavens and became their leader.
The Defeat Of Gods
After their defeat and humiliation at the hands of Mahishasur, the gods took refuge under Lord Brahma, who took them to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The only solution left was the creation of a woman who possess the ultimate power to fight and defeat Mahishasur. Pure energy blazed forth from Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - the trinity forming the pure energy of Godhood, all concentrating at one point that took the form of Goddess Durga.
Culmination Of Energies
Her face reflected the light of Shiva, her ten arms were from Lord Vishnu, her feet were from Lord Brahma, the tresses were formed from the light of Yama, the god of death and the two breasts were formed from the light of Somanath, the Moon God, the waist from the light of Indra, the king of gods, the legs and thighs from the light of Varun, the god of oceans and hips from the light of Bhoodev (Earth), the toes from the light of Surya (Sun God), fingers of the hand from the light of the Vasus, the children of Goddess river Ganga and nose from the light of Kuber, the keeper of wealth for the Gods. The teeth were formed from the light of Prajapati, the lord of creatures, the Triad of her eyes was born from the light of Agni, the Fire God, the eyebrows from the two Sandhyas,ie, sunrise and sunset, the ears from the light of Vayu, the god of Wind. Thus from the energy of these gods, as well as from many other gods, was formed the goddess Durga.
Power Of Weapons
The gods then gifted the goddess with their weapons and other divine objects to help her in her battle with the demon, Mahishasura. Lord Shiva gave her a trident while Lord Vishnu gave her a disc. Varuna, gave her a conch and noose, and Agni gave her a spear. From Vayu, she received arrows. Indra, gave her a thunderbolt, and the gift of his white-skinned elephant Airavata was a bell. From Yama, she received a sword and shield and from Vishwakarma (god of Architecture), an axe and armor. The god of mountains, Himavat gifted her with jewels and a lion to ride on. Durga was also given many other precious and magical gifts, new clothing, and a garland of immortal lotuses for her head and breasts.
The beautiful Durga, bedecked in jewels and golden armor and equipped with the fearsome weaponry of the gods, was ready to engage in battle with the fierce and cruel Mahishasura. Mahishasura and his demon allies found their attention drawn from heaven to Earth, as Durga's power moved its way towards heaven. Though confident of their power and control in heaven, the demons could not help being awestruck.
As Mahishasura's armies were struck down effortlessly by Durga, it became obvious to him that he was not as secure in heaven as he had thought. No demon could fight her and win. Her breath would replenish her armies - bringing back to life all of her soldiers who fell. The demons were in chaos and were easily defeated and captured. Mahishasura was shocked and enraged by the disastrous events on the battlefield. He took on the form of a demonic buffalo, and charged at the divine soldiers of Durga, goring and killing many and lashing out with his whip-like tail. Durga's lion pounced on the demon-buffalo and engaged him in a battle. While he was thus engaged, Durga threw her noose around his neck.
Mahishasura then assumed the form of a lion and when Durga beheaded the lion, Mahishasura escaped in the form of a man who was immediately face to face with a volley of arrows from Durga. The demon escaped yet again and then having assumed the form of a huge elephant, battered Durga's lion with a tusk. With her sword Durga hacked the tusk into pieces.
The demon reverted once more to the form of the wild buffalo. He hid himself in the mountains from where he hurled boulders at Durga with his horns. Durga drank the divine nectar, the gift of Kuber. She then pounced on Mahishasura, pushing him to the ground with her left leg. She grasped his head in one hand, pierced him with her sharp trident held in another, and with yet another of her ten hands she wielded her bright sword, beheading him. At last he fell dead, and the scattered surviving remnants of his once invincible army fled in terror.
The Rituals of Durga Puja
Unveiling the face of the goddess Durga's idol.
The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in Aswin. Thousands offer prayers to their ancestors at the city's river banks, a ritual called Tarpan. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days - Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. The puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Three days of Mantras and Shlokas and Arati and offerings - needs an expert priest to do this kind of Puja. Because of these facts, the number of Pujas held in the family has reduced and Durga Puja has mostly emerged as a community festival.
On this day Goddess Durga arrives to the mortal world from her heavenly abode, accompanied by her children. She is welcomed with much fanfare amidst the beats of dhak. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day. Kalaparambho, the ritual performed before the commencement of the puja precedes Bodhon, Amontron and Adibas.
Saptami is the first day of Durga puja. Kola Bow or Nabapatrika is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The main Saptami Puja follows Kalparambho and Mahasnan.
The day began with a recital of Sanskrit hymns in community puja pandals as thousands of devotees offered anjali to the goddess. Kumari Puja or the worship of little girls as the mother goddess was a special part of the rituals observed in a number of traditional and household pujas. As the day wore on, it was time for the important Sandhi Puja, which marks the inter-linking of the Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami.
This is the concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Navami puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. The Navami Bhog is offered to the goddess. This is later partaken as prasad by the devotees.
After the three days of Puja, in Dashami , in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.
Tradition of Durga Puja
The idol being immersed on the tenth day of Durga Puja.
Today's most authentic form of the Durga is that of a ten handed goddess modeled out of clay astride a lion. Each of those hands carry a separate weapon in them except two, which holds the spear which has been struck into the chest of the demon, Mahishasura. The four children of the Goddess had also been added to the iconography - Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, Kartik, the God of beauty as well as warfare and Ganesha, the 'Siddhidata' or the starter of everything in good sense.
The drum-beats are an integral part of the Durga Puja. This special variety of the drum, known as 'Dhak,' enthralls the hearts of the Calcutta with its majestic rhythm right from the day of 'Sasthi.' This drum is held on the shoulder with the beating side in the bottom and is beaten with two sticks, one thick and another thin.
The Durga Puja spans over a period of ten days in case of traditional and household Pujas, though the main part of it is restricted to four days only. The main Puja, however, starts on the evening of 'Sasthi', the sixth day after the new moon, generally from beneath a 'Bel' tree for the traditional ones. In the wee hours of 'Saptami,' the next day, the 'Pran' or life of the Devi is brought from a nearby pond or river in a banana tree and established inside the image. The main puja starts thereafter and the prime time is reached in the 'Sandhikshan,' the crossover time between Ashtami and Navami. Finally, on 'Dashami,' the tenth day from the new moon, the image is immersed in a pond or river.
Durga Puja Celebrations
People gathering in beautifully decorated pandal for puja.
The celebration of Durga Puja goes very far back in history and there are abundant references to it in India literature from 12th century onwards. However, today Durga Puja is generally a community festival. The Puja celebration over the years has changed color often. Earlier, it was the most expensive of all festivals and could only be performed by the rich and the powerful like feudal lords, rajas and big businessmen. However, it always evoked great enthusiasm and popular support.
But in today's ethos, The evolution of many clubs, associations and societies has made the Puja cosmopolitan in character. The social and ritualistic significance of the Puja has also been modified to a great degree. Today, this festival has become an occasion for pageantry and extravaganza. Age-old conch shells and drums have given way to loud film songs and sometimes the goddess is modeled on popular film actresses. On the flip side, animal sacrifices, a must earlier, have been dispensed with at many places and shrines.
While earlier Durga was worshiped alone, now it is, more often than not, the goddess with her family. Durga is portrayed as the supreme head; and the presence of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shiva etc marks a wholesome picture of divinity. In southern India celebrations constitute a display of images of God and toys at home for nine days. But despite the various ways in which this festival is celebrated the feature that is common is that of the worship of the mother goddess.
Significance of Durga Puja
The making of goddess idol is a very detailed work of art.
During Durga Puja, God in the form of the Divine Mother is worshiped in Her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Though the Goddess is one, She is represented and worshiped in three different aspects. On the first three nights of the festival, Durga is worshiped. On the following three, Lakshmi and then Saraswati Devi on the last three nights. The following tenth day is called Vijayadasami. Vijaya means "victory", the victory over one's own minds that can come only when these three: Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are worshiped.
Meaning Of Durga
Durga is perhaps the most widely worshiped deity of Shakti. Maa Durga's divine characterization include entire Devibhagavatham is dedicated to her. Durga means one who is difficult to approach. However since she is the mother of universe she is the personification of tender love, wealth, power, beauty and all virtues.
Implications Of The Idol
The complete image of Goddess Durga represent destruction of evil and protection of good and reflects the point that in order to become divine one should keep one's animal instincts under control. Thus, by worshiping Durga the idea of ruthless destruction is invoked to annihilate all the desires and unfold divinity.
ln Bengal, Goddess Durga is worshiped for nine days. In South India, an altar decorated with a stepped platform and filled with small images of gods, animals,birds,and other beings, animate and inanimate, is worshiped for nine days. This altar is known as the Kolu. People re-dedicate themselves to their profession. On this day, a child also begins to learn the alphabet in a ceremony known as aksarabhyasa. This day marks the beginning of any type of learning. One offers gifts to one's teachers, seeks their blessings,and prays for success in one's new endeavors.