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Festivals - Durga Puja

THE POWER OF THE MOTHER GODDESS IS PERHAPS GREATER than that of any other god. She is even worshipped by all the gods themselves. She is Shakti - the power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. She takes the form of their consorts, without whom, none of the gods can achieve anything. She is worshipped all over India with the same ardour under different names and manifestations - the most benign face of the goddess is Durga. Durga puja is performed twice in a year - for nine days each time - once at the beginning of summer, some time in March or April, and again at the beginning of winter, some time in September or October. In summer, the month according to the Hindu calendar when Durga puja is performed is Chait.


The festival is celebrated during the moonlit fortnight of the month, the first day being Parva. Chait Devi puja is done for eight days, the ninth day being Ram Navami. In winter, the month of celebration is Kartik and, again, the puja starts on Parva of the moonlit fortnight. During Kartik the puja goes on for nine days and the tenth day is Dussehra.The Hindu month is marked by fifteen days of a waxing moon and fifteen days of a waning moon, thus comprising thirty days. The name given to each day, or Tith as it is called, is the same during both the periods, but the moonlit period is known as Sukul Paksh, and the dark period is known as Krishna Paksh. The time scheduled for Durga puja on both the occasions is nine days during the moonlit fortnight, and these are known as Navratris.


The puja during Chait is mostly observed as a private, homely affair, but the one heralding the winter is celebrated with great pomp and show, especially in Bengal, from where it has spread to all parts of India.


During the Kartik festival, huge pandals (tents) are erected and beautifully decorated with images of Durga ma in her many moods. In each locality, almost everyone contributes towards the event and every evening kirtans and bhajans are sung in every pandal. Making of the images or idols of Durga Ma is an art in itself and bring forth the best in the craftmen. They start the process many weeks prior to the festival and really try to outdo each other in their skill. Clothes and jewellery of the images or idols are magnificent as the images are larger than life and can be seen from afar. On seeing the decorated idol, one automatically bows one's head and does namaskar and the children seeing the elders bowing so humbly before the image, also develop a feeling of faith and goodness, which are very essential for a human being. Now let us leave the public celebration to those who can arrange such affairs. Let us instead concentrate on the celebrations at home.


On the first day of the puja, the puja room is thoroughly cleaned, silver and brass items are polished, all images made of metal cleaned likewise, and new clothes like lehanga and chunni with gota and kinari (made earlier) are draped on the image of the goddess and the other deities like Ganesh, who is to be worshipped before any other god.


All other deities should also be freshly dressed, and old covers of the puja table removed and new ones used in their place.Everyone who performs the puja must bathe in the morning. Some like to fast, but it is not compulsory and, in any case, phalar is allowed once a day and liquids can be taken any time.Some persons observe the fast only on the first day and the last day, but some even observe it for the full nine days. During the day, puja can normally be done only by the women as the men and children would have gone to their places of work and schools, respectively. The day puja is shorter in duration as compared to the evening puja. The prasad distributed in the morning can be some elaichidana (cardamom seeds) only. The worship of the de

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