Durga Puja Festive Joys
Durga Puja is synonymous with East India as one of the biggest festivals where the ten-armed Goddess riding the lion is worshiped with great passion and devotion and the festival signifies victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’.
The first grand worship of Goddess Durga in recorded history is said to have been celebrated in the late 1500s. Folklores say the landlords, or zamindar, of Dinajpur and Malda, initiated the first Durga Puja in Bengal. According to another source, Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur or Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya organized the first Sharadiya or Autumn Durga Puja in Bengal in 1606.
First official Durga Puja was started in Assam, during the time of Ahom king Shiva Singha, under influence of Parvatiya Gossai of Kamakhya, under the leadership of Bor-Raja Phuleswari Kowari alias Phulmati alias Pramatheswari at Sivasagar, during 1730 after the battle of Plassey. One of the earliest evidence of the autumnal celebration can be found in the Tripura Buranji, where it is described that the envoy of the Twipra Kingdom, Rameshwar Nyayalankar, was invited to witness the Durga Puja at Rangpur, the capital of the Ahom kingdom. The first Puja was organized by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of the Shobhabazar Rajbari of Calcutta in honor of Lord Clive in the year 1757. The puja was organized because Clive wished to say thanks for his victory in the Battle of Plassey. He was unable to do so in a Church because the only church in Calcutta at that time was destroyed by Siraj-Ud-Daulah. This was deemed necessary since the company was in charge of a large part of India including Bengal after the battles of Plassey and Buxar.
The origin of the community puja can be credited to the twelve friends of Guptipara in Hoogly, West Bengal, who collaborated and collected contributions from local residents to conduct the first community puja called the ‘Barowari’ puja, or the ‘twelve-pal’ puja, in 1790.
Mahalaya heralds the advent of Goddess Durga and Her family to Earth. Mahalaya marks the beginning of ‘Devipaksha’ and the countdown to Durga Puja.
Chanting mantras and singing bhajans dedicated to Goddess Durga is the main event on Mahalaya day. The most famous bhajans are the – ‘Jago Tumi Jago.’ The Chandi Kavya or Chandi Stotram is recited on this day.
This year 2017, Goddess Durga is arriving on boat indicating rich harvest, fertility but She is leaving for Kailash on a Horse which indicates warfare & destruction.
The customary “Sindoor Khela” marks the end of the biggest festival of East India. It is an age-old ritual that on the last day of Durga Puja – “Vijayadashami”, women apply sindoor on the Goddess’s feet or forehead and then start smearing it to all the married women around. This red powder is used to celebrate Goddess Durga’s married status and bid her proper farewell & good luck as She prepares to leave her parents to return to Kailash, the abode of Her husband, Shiva. The sindoor or vermillion represents the status of a married woman in our society.
This year in Guwahati, a 100-ft tall bamboo idol of Goddess Durga is all set to enter the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest bamboo sculpture ever made in the world by Bishnupur Durga Puja Committee in Guwahati, Assam. And it is a perfect example of religious tolerance, harmony and ‘never give up’ spirit. Art director Nuruddin Ahmed has designed the structure and the work of the gigantic structure began on 1st August. He is assisted by 40 artisans. The work started two months back. And the height was approximately 110 feet. But all of a sudden on 17th of this month, the whole structure struck down because of the strong storm here. Thus, the big challenge of completing the project in just six days came before the committee. But with positivity, the team started afresh and within a week they completed the construction which is very inspirational. Maligaon Kalibari was adjudged ‘Best Pratima’ award.
The rains and the unpredictable weather didn’t deter the festive spirit and with Vijayadashami, the devotees will wait next year to welcome the Goddess and feel empowered.