Durga Puja is a Hindu celebration that is dedicated to the worship of Durga or Shakti, the Hindu goddess of power. It is also known as Durgotsab. Every year, the Hindus of the northern and eastern India observe this festival with complex rituals. States of India like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura simply do not miss this big event. Even in the states of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala also actively participate in the feast. Ceremonies such as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dashami are also performed during this festivity.
Usually, the Durga Puja falls between the months of September to November. It is a nine-day happening celebrated by the people. In the early practices of it, animals were being sacrificed on the eighth day of the festival. Human sacrifices were also very common then. But now, this practice had become obsolete.
In the sixteenth century, the public started celebrating Durga Puja in a grand manner. Social Galas, big feasts and huge fan fares became part of the merriment. In 1606, Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur and Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya organized the very first Sharadiya Durgotsab Festivals. With the rise of the Mughals, the feast became more of a status symbol in those days. The powerful and rich Bengalis carried out a lush and extravagant way of celebrating it. Luxury and opulence became part of the celebration.
However, there were still people who resorted to the traditional manner of conducting Durga Puja in their homes. This practice includes rituals and ceremonies characterized by devotion and sentiments attached to the festival.
In 1790, the custom of Baroyari originated in Guptipara in Bengal. This custom is about a group of twelve friends. It is also known as Sarbojanin Puja. As time goes by, many cultural performances and shows became attached to Durga Puja. Aside from entertainment purposes, these shows and performances also have religious purposes. The colorful procession known as Jatra, the puppet dance, the singing of Kirtan, devotional songs or kobi gaan and the magic shows are some of the favorite attractions of the children, as well as the adults.
Nowadays, Durga Puja has reached the masses of West Bengal. A number of grand-scale community pujas are held as well as small-scale pujas. These are flooded with ample foods and huge pandals. Affluent decors can be seen everywhere. This celebration usually requires large funding and the people allot enough for it. However, some people also believe that this extravagance and lavishness tarnishes and spoils the sanctity of the festival. Its true essence becomes tainted with the showing off of wealth of the rich people. But no matter how the people choose to celebrate it, Durga Puja is a part of their traditions and customs.