Durga Puja, also known as, Navratra or Durgotsab, is a ten day festival that honors the Goddess Durga or Shakti. During the entirety of the festival the Goddess is worshipped in nine different forms by her ardent followers. These forms are known as Kushmanda, Katyayani, Kalratri, Shailputri, Skandamata, Mahagauri, Brahmcharini, Siddhidatri and Chandraghanta. Although Durga Puja is observed throughout India, the celebrations in the states of West Bengal, Tripura, Orissa and Bihar have distinguished themselves for the passion and spirit they devote to the festival. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is renowned throughout the world as the center of the festivities.
Durga Puja is celebrated in autumn, typically between the end of September and the start of November. Most of the religions today make use of either the solar calendar or the lunar calendar to decide their celebrations. The Hindu religious calendar distinguishes itself from other religions as it makes use of both calendars and it is the sole indicator of the dates of the Puja, The Hindu solar calendar indicates the beginning of the Durga Puja and the succeeding nine days are counted by the sunrise and sunset, while the Lunar calendar is used to time the religious rituals. Hindu religious tradition states that Durga Puja falls on the beginning of the Ashwin month.
As already mentioned Hindu religious tradition, followed by the Bengalis, times the religious ceremonies of the Puja in accordance with the lunar calendar. The moon’s coming and waning is called the Tithhi and all the activities of the Puja are timed according to it. A prime example of this would be the Mahalaya, or the day of the Goddess Durga’s homecoming, which is indicated by the New moon. The occurrence of Mahalaya in turn signals the Devi Paksha, or the fortnight of the Puja.
Although a ten day affair, Durga Pooja is celebrated for only nine of them. Maha Shashti, or the sixth day of the Puja, falls on the sixth day of the subsequent full moon phase of the Mahalaya. Shashti is marked by community gatherings filled with great merrymaking, dancing, and feasting. Throughout the last six days of the Puja, a variety of religious ceremonies take place, particularly on Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami and Maha Nabami.
One distinct ritual occurs in the late hours of Maha Saptami, wherein the Pran, or life of the Devi, is brought from a banana tree drawn from a sacred pond or river. The latter is then ensconced in the Goddess Durga’s idol. Another example of a religious ritual marked by tithi and ghadi occurs between Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami known as Sandhikshan, which celebrates the transition between the two days. The last day of the Puja, Maha Dashami is celebrated four days before the full moon night locally known as Kojagori Purnima
Dates of Durga Puja 2012
- October 20, 2012 –Maha Shashti
- October 21, 2012 –Maha Saptami
- October 22, 2012 –Maha Ashtami
- October 23, 2012 –Maha Navami
- October 24, 2012 – Vijaya Dashami