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The Grandeur of Durga Puja- A recurring milestone of Power and Frolic fortifying the Bong Connection

 
Durga Puja- the most awaited festival for Bengalis across the world, celebrated parallelly with Navaratri, is a representation of the entire Bengali culture. It’s a festival that not only portrays our Religious beliefs but also exudes the artistic side and the love for art dwelling in every Bengali. Art and regard for cultural activities are instilled in us since the early years of childhood and separating us from them is like taking a “fish out of the water”.

Our culture is not only reflected through Durga Puja but is also further adored and enhanced by it. It is a reason for us to exhibit and flaunt the artists in us to the world through our Pandals, Pratima (Durga Maa Idols), Dance competitions held in Community Pujas, Theatre replays of our beloved Nobel Laureate Shri Rabindranath Tagore accompanied by his beautiful songs and poems.

Consider this article as a Word Sketch of this grand festival held by Bengalis across the world dipped in the colourful background of Bengali or rather Bangali culture.

Mythology

The most vivacious thing about Indian festivals is that every festival has an engaging story behind it and Durga Puja is no exception. It is believed that at a time when evil powers, also referred to as the Rakshasas or ‘Asuras’ (Monsters) were causing mayhem among the human race on Earth, the Indian Pagan Gods, commonly known as the Devta Gana could not defeat them. Then all of them together decided to create a Devi (Goddess), who would possess the assembled strength and weapons of all the Gods and would be a symbol of ‘Power’ or ‘Shakti’. Maa Durga was created as a result of this alliance and for the purpose of protecting Human Kind from evil.

She is summoned and prayed to in order to provide ‘strength’, ‘protection’ and ‘power’ to human beings to fight their way against evil and all other odds of the world.

It is said that every year in the month of ‘Ashwin’ as per the Bengali calendar, she visits her paternal house near Kailash (the Himalayas) along with her four children Kartik, Laxmi, Ganesh and Saraswati for four days. During these four days people greet her with love and allegiance and pay their respects to her and her children. On the 10th day, commonly known as Vijaya Dashami, she leaves for her husband Shiva’s house situated at the peak of Kailash.

History

Initially Durga Puja had not paved its way into the present Bengal capital-Kolkata. The first Durga Puja Festival was initiated at much more subdued place.

As per historical facts and records the first Durga Puja had taken place around the year 1606 in Nadia a District located at the extreme eastern part of West Bengal. Nadia was the capital of West Bengal from 1159-1206. In its early stages, Durga Puja was more of a residential and family festival, celebrated within the grand houses of rich landlords, often referred to as the Zamindars.

Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, experienced its first Durga Puja in the year 1610, celebrated in the house of Sabarna Chaudhury Bari, another rich and renowned landlord, while the first publicly organized Puja occurred years later near the Hooghly district. It is believed that this puja was organized by a group of 12 friends who were not allowed to take part in the Family Festival. This ‘Pujo came to be known as Barowari (‘baro’-twelve; yar-friend) Pujo-the festival held by twelve friends.

This term too began fading since the beginning of the 20th century, i.e. around 1910, when it started becoming popular and everyone wanted to be a part of this grand celebration. The dawn of the 20th century saw the prevalence of ‘Sarbojonin Pujo’ (‘sarbo’-all; ‘jon’-people), in which all men, women, children and everyone else could participate.
 

Makeover of the Traditional Durga Puja to Theme-Based Idol worship in an Age of Trendy Bangalis

 
People across several parts of eastern India, have been celebrating Durga Puja , often referred to as Sharadotsav (the Autumn festival ). Even Bengalis outside the eastern zone as well as residing in foreign countries, who are often referred to as the Probaashi Bangali , consider this particular festival a reminder and anchor to their culture and roots respectively. 

Since the medieval times, when the first Durga Puja had taken place, people have been trying to adorn Maa Durga in various ways such as different kinds of ornaments and sarees. Initially the idols of the Goddess Durga were created and designed strictly adhering to the traditional iconography depicted in the Indian scriptures.

Maa Durga was created to fight the evil Mahisashur, the buffalo demon, who was rummaging the Earth and mankind. The Gods concocted a beautiful Goddess Durga, possessing ten arms to hold the ten most powerful weapons and armours of each God. Her idol is depicted in exactly the same way even now accompanied by her four children Kartick, Ganesha, Saraswati and Laxmi.

During the 1600s, the idol of Maa Durga, also known as the Pratima along with her four children, were ideally featured under one cover or a single background, which was termed as ekchala (ek-one; chala-cover).  Authentically there were only two types of idol structures, namely ‘Sholaar Shaajand ‘Daaker Shaaj’.

Sholais a dried milky white spongy plant, which is found in marshy water-logged areas across the eastern zone of India. It is more often referred to as Indica, a name coined by the British, borrowed from its scientific name. Carving and designing artefacts and even everyday use objects out of Shola forms one of the largest part of cottage industry across West Bengal. The tableau of Maa Durga’s ‘Pratima'  was carved out of this Shola and so was her crown, her ornaments and even her Saree.

With the enhancement in the riches of the worshippers, they began using sheets of silver, referred to as ‘Rangta in Bengali. These silver sheets were shipped into India from Germany and were delivered Post, known as ‘Daakin Bengali. Hence this sculpture type came to be known as ‘Daaker Shaj’.

Over the years though the Maa’s Idol structure remains the same, the concept and background settings have been revolutionized by the emergence of Theme based Durga Puja. Nowadays the traditional idol designs have been completely overshadowed by designer and theme based canopies or more commonly known as ‘Pandalsand Durga Pratimasmatching those backdrop themes.

Themes ranging from ‘Go Green’ messages to depicting foreign countries and their culture through our Durga Puja, symbolising the latest trend of Globalisation. Depicting the universe and its cosmos mysteries, personifying aliens and the spirits lurking around the temples of Durga’s husband Lord Shiva, these are only few of the concepts that have been immensely attracted millions of people from in and around Kolkata.

Various communities such as the renowned Bosepukur Sital Mandir Club or Ekdalia Evergreen Club and the Behala Club Pujas are headed by respected political leaders and renowned celebrities like the former Indian Captain Sourav Ganguly. With the emergence of wealth, education and class, Durga Puja has attained higher standards and new designer levels. Even foreign designers and architects are asked to create and construct award-winning idols and canopies.

Earlier it was all about paying respects and pleasing the Goddess during her short stay but now this trend has been taken over by setting better standards with every passing year and competition between clubs and artists. Theme based Durga Puja benefits a huge a section of handicraft artists in the villages and suburbs as well as massive advertising and marketing agencies. In today’s time and age Durga Puja has transformed into a mix of tradition, culture and business and advertising. Since ‘Change is the only Constant, this massive transformation marks this saying as true and it also shows that like ourselves and different generations, even our culture and traditional values and taste are developing parallely. As we are changing with time, so is our way of greeting and treating Maa Durga and her family. 
 

 
     
 

Kumartuli

Durga puja is biggest festival in Kolkata as well as in West Bengal. Kumartuli is the place where the God is created. So many Clay porters makes Durga idol in kumartuli. The idol made of clay (which collected from river Ganges) and bamboo, after that, the idol being painted & decorated by cloths & ornaments. The potters usually start making idols from the Day of Rath Yatra, but due do work pressure they start end of May.

The Puja

Durga puja celebrate also many homes or temple traditionally, they follows old ritual & formalities. There are some pujas 200-250 years old. In day ofRath Yatra idol making is stated inside the household. In durga puja all the members of family join and participated & organize this tradition. They follow rituals like Kola bou snan, Sandhipuja or boli (now a day’s animal boli is stopped while fruits & vegetable sacrificed).

Bijoya Dashami

Last day of  durga puja called Dashami or Vijaya Dashami. On Bijoya Dashami married women converge to bid farewell to the Goddess Durga with Sindur, sweets & paan pata (betel leaf). 'Sindoor Khela' or smearing of the vermilion is traditional occasion of Vijaya Dashami.  After the idol immersed in river Ganges or lake, young prostration olds and embrace mutually (kolakuli) each others.