Durga Puja is a celebration of the Mother Goddess, and the victory of the revered warrior Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.
When is Durga Puja Celebrated:
Durga Puja is celebrated during the last five days of Navaratri, which is usually in late September/early October each year. The statues are immersed on Dussehra. In 2013, Durga Puja runs from October 9-13. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar.
Find out Durga Puja dates in future years.
Where is Durga Puja Celebrated:
Durga Puja is celebrated in West Bengal, particularly in the city of Kolkata. It's the biggest and most important occasion of the year there.
Bengali communities in other locations across India celebrate Durga Puja as well. Substantial Durga Puja festivities take place in both Mumbai and Delhi.
In addition, Durga Puja is popular in Assam and Tripura (in North East India), and Orissa.
How is Durga Puja Celebrated:
Durga Puja is celebrated in a similar manner to the Ganesh Chaturthi festival
. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Goddess Durga installed in homes and beautifully decorated podiums all over the city. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much music and dancing, and then immersed in the water.
What Rituals are Performed During Durga Puja:
Around one week before the festival starts, on the occasion of Mahalaya
, the Goddess is invited to come to the earth. The eyes are drawn on the idols of the Goddess on this day, in an auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan
. After the idols of Goddess Durga have been installed, a ritual is performed to invoke her holy presence into them. This ritual is called Pran Pratisthan
. It involves a small banana plant called a Kola Bou, which is bathed in a nearby river, dressed in a sari, and used to transport the Goddess's energy. Prayers are offered to the Goddess every day during the festival. On the third day, Goddess Durga is worshiped in the form of a small girl in a ritual called the Kumari
Puja. Worship is concluded on the fourth day with a maha aarti (great fire ceremony). On the last day, the statutes are taken for immersion.
What to Expect During Durga Puja:
The Durga Puja festival is an extremely social and theatrical event. Drama, dance, and cultural performances are widely held. Food is a huge part of the festival, and street stalls blossom all over Kolkata. In the evenings, the streets of Kolkata fill with people, who come to admire the statues of Goddess Durga, eat, and celebrate.