What is the story of Durga Puja?

Ma Durga
Ma Durga

Navarathri – India’s Holiday Season Begins

In just a couple of weeks begins Navarathri – India’s famous and much awaited annual festival. Thanks to India’s diverse culture, it is celebrated in different ways across the country, traditions and customs varying from region to region. However, the underlying commonality of this festival is its essence – the celebration and worship of Mother Goddess.

Shakti – the Goddess of Cosmic Power

In Hinduism, God is thought to comprise of two halves – the masculine and feminine aspects. The masculine aspect is represented by deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Rama. The Goddess, who represents Shakti or cosmic power takes on various forms such as Lakshmi(Goddess of wealth), Saraswathi(Goddess of knowledge), Durga(representing fierce courage and strength), Kali(representing wrath – aimed at those who cause harm to her worshippers) and Sita(representing purity and virtue). Navarathri is a festival that celebrates all these divine manifestations of the Goddess.

Different parts of India celebrate this occasion in different ways. Prominent among the celebrations are the Durga Puja festivities of West Bengal and the Navarathri Bommagolu custom of southern India.

Durga Puja

In Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga is believed to be the warrior Goddess. She rides her Vahana(vehicle)- the lion and destroys evil whenever it raises its head.  It is in this way – mounted on her lion and with weapons in her hands – that she destroyed Mahisasura – the demon who had acquired the power of invincibility. The eighteen armed Durga was the only one who could match and overpower him, which is why she is also referred to as Mahisasura Mardhini( Destroyer of Mahisasur)

References to Durga are found in Vedic texts and in the Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Besides being revered for her ferocious, warrior-like qualities, Goddess Durga is also known as the benevolent and kind Goddess, who protects her devotees from harm. This is the reason why Durga Puja has such a prominent place in Navarathri.

As many other Hindu festivals, Durga Puja is marked by the preparation of various kinds of sweet dishes for offering to the Goddess, people wearing their finest, offering elaborate prayers to Durga Mata, exchanging sweets and gifts and carrying a statue of Durga on a procession through the city, with devotees chanting, singing her praises and dancing to drum beats and music.

The very first time you witness West Bengal’s Durga Puja, expect to be blown away by the extravaganza that includes lights, arrangements, decorations, sounds and music.

Of course, underneath the dazzle of it all, lies the simple truth – which is the only thing that matters. Durga Puja, like almost all other festivals of India, serves as a reminder to people that truth, righteousness, virtue and benevolence ought to be the real pursuits in life. Everything else is fleeting.

Which is why, even if you are far away from your family and can’t celebrate Durga Puja with them, you can still greet them with free Durga Puja Ecards. You may not be able to partake in the celebrations, or splurge on expensive gifts. But, you’re sending your friends and family heartfelt best wishes and hoping that the Mother Goddess showers her blessings on them. What more could anyone really ask for? I think if you looked hard enough, you might even catch Goddess Durga nodding and smiling in approval of your choice.