As soon as the gloomy season of monsoon bids its final adieu, the scattered clouds on the sky, the scent of fresh Shuili in the air, and the swirl of blooming Kash by the riverbanks mark the advent of autumn in Bengal along with the “homecoming” of Devi Durga. This is the time of the year, when the entire country tunes in to the same festive vibe, celebrating Navratri, Dandiya, and Durga Puja in every corner. Being one of the most prominent annual festivals of India, Durga Puja is the soul and pride of Bengal.
Although the festival is to celebrate Shakti as the divine feminine force, Durga Puja is also a festival to celebrate Life in every aspect. Starting from the same day of Navratri with Mahalaya and celebrated over the last five days of Navratri, Durga Puja is an integral part of the ancient culture and tradition of Kolkata especially.
Festivity in Kolkata:
The history of celebrating Durga Puja in Kolkata traces back to the mid-1700s when the landlords and influential Zamindars of Bengal used to organize the pujas in their ancestral “thakur-dalans” with its full grandeur to flaunt their status and wealth. Although those Zamindars are gone with time, the legacy of organizing ostentatious Durga puja is still being carried on in the forms of either “Bonedi Puja” or “Barowari Puja” by the modern generation.
The festival usually falls during the month of Ashwin (September – October) but the real celebration starts months in advance. Starting from shopping the new clothes, buying gifts for friends and family planning, and booking tickets for homecoming – Bengalis living in every corner of the world start gearing up for the on-coming festival. The sculptors of Kumartuli in North Kolkata start shaping the divine from the clay collected from the riverbanks of the holy Ganges once the monsoon gets over. At the onset of Mahalaya, they bring the Goddess into life by offering the eyes as the final touch. Then with the energy and the intense beats of Dhaak buzzing in the air, every nook and corner of Kolkata decks up with twinkling lights during this time of the year.
Goddess Durga and her battle against Evil:
Durga, in Sanskrit means “the one who is invincible”. According to the legends, Devi Durga was born as the Great Mother or Protector of the Universe to ensure the creation and preservation by destructing the Evil forces lurking around the universe. Goddess Durga who symbolizes the divine feminine force or Shakti was evoked and endowed with powerful weapons and boons to defeat the Evil. All the nine days of the Navratri are dedicated to the nine divine forms of the Devi.
In Bengali culture, it is believed that Devi Durga ascends from the mountains once every year to visit her “family” with four children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik, and Ganesh to eliminate mundane sufferings and fulfil the world with prosperity and peace by diminishing the evil.
A parable of Life:
Apart from the concept of celebrating Shakti and Divine Feminism, one can look at Durga Puja as the festival celebrating the journey of life. The nine-night and ten-day-long Durga Puja festival is quite an allegory of life. Every ritual of the Puja, starting from the idol-making to evoking and celebrating the Shakti and then finally immersing the idol into the water on the day of Bijoya Dashami, reiterates the natural cycle of life – from birth to death.
Like the Devi, human beings also come into this world, empower themselves with the knowledge to encounter the darkness and ignorance, and disappear into nothingness in the end, simply dissolving like the clouds into thin air. While the “energy” moves on towards the immensity of the universe, the truth it raised through the “form” stays behind.
The five-day-long Durga Puja is not just an annual festival to celebrate the homecoming of Maa Durga or celebrating divine feminism. This festival has become one of the biggest carnivals of the world and a social festival that brings people together transcending their religious and cultural differences. Each year the festival raises the question of the purpose of life with death being an inevitable destiny for the mortals. However, when the festive fever goes down days after Bijoya Dashami, the city returns to its usual pace and prepares for the new beginning – it becomes clear that life must be lived to its fullest even though it ends at the end of the circle.
Team Vareli Tecnac Pvt. Ltd. wishes all a very Happy Durga Puja !