Durga Puja is celebrated in the Hindu month called Ashwin and lands in either September or October on the Gregorian calendar.
|2018||16 Oct||Tue||Maha Saptami||OR, SK, TR & WB|
|17 Oct||Wed||Maha Ashtami||AP, AR, JH, MN, OR, RJ,
SK, TG, TR & WB
|18 Oct||Thu||Maha Navami||AS, BR, JH, KA, KL, ML,
NL, OR, PY, SK, TN, TR,
UP & WB
|19 Oct||Fri||Vijaya Dashami||National except MN & PY|
|2019||5 Oct||Sat||Maha Saptami||OR, SK, TR & WB|
|6 Oct||Sun||Maha Ashtami||AP, JH, MN, OR, RJ, SK,
TG, TR & WB
|7 Oct||Mon||Maha Navami||AS, BR, JH, KA, KL, ML,
NL, OR, PY, SK, TN, TR,
UP & WB
|8 Oct||Tue||Vijaya Dashami||National except MN & PY|
The ceremonies of Durga Puja are centred on the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga who is iconically depicted as a a 10-armed mother-goddess with her four children standing nearby. Durga Puja is also a time of family reunions and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the Bengali people.
The dates chosen for Durga Puja are based on the time when Prince Rama is thought to have invoked the aid of the goddess Durga, who then (legend has it) came to battle and ultimately defeat the demon-buffalo king Ravana and his evil henchmen.
The first Durga Puja in recorded history occurred in Bengal around the turn of the 16th Century A.D. Annual celebrations continued and later spread to Delhi in 1911 when many Bengalis moved there to work in the then-new capital of British India. The holiday was also transported to Mumbai (Bombay) and other cities to which Bengalis immigrated. Finally, Bengalis who live in other nations also often observe the feast. The biggest and most significant Durga Puja festival, however, still takes place in West Bengal in the municipality of Kolkata.
The entirety of the Durga Puja season encompasses 10 days of fasting, feasting and worshipping Durga. The last five days of celebration, however, are the most important. They are observed as follows:
- On the day called ‘Shasthi‘, Durga is thought to descend to the Earth with her four children accompanying her. This occurs only after her descent has been invoked by worshipers. It is also on this day that her eyes are drawn on or installed onto the idols.
- On ‘Saptami‘, the goddess is believed, also upon invitation in a complex ritual, to enter into the statues that depict her.
- On ‘Ashtami‘, the day on which Durga is said to have slain the demon-buffalo’s two henchmen (Chanda and Munda), her statue is carried around at the time of day of the long-ago slaying.
- On ‘Navami‘, the great fire ceremony (Maha Aarti) is held. This is the day that Durga is believed to heave finally killed her demon opponent in battle. People dress up in their best clothes and eat special food that has been first offered to Durga to celebrate.
- On the final day of the feast, ‘Dashami‘, Durga idols are all carried around in great processions. There is dancing and music all around. The statues are carried to a river or other body of water to be immersed. Worshippers then visit friends and family, exchange blessings, eat sweets and sumptuous meals, and dress in traditional garb.
There are numerous festivals and activities in all parts of India where Durga Puja is kept that tourist often attend, including:
- The main festival in Kolkata, West Bengal. Here, you will encounter dancing, dramatic performances, Bengali cuisine and numerous streets stalls where you can buy cultural souvenirs. The Durga displays, called ‘pandals‘, are so abundant.
- In the neighbourhood of Kumartuli, in northern Kolkata is where most of Durga icons are manufactured. Many of them are made of clay, and this is where the eyes are painted onto the Durga idols during the Durga Festival.
- In Delhi, the oldest Durga Puja festival in the city is held at Chittaranjan Park, which is often known as the “miniature Kolkata.”
- In Mumbai, the Bengal Club has been conducting a Durga Puja in Shivaji Park since the 1950s. In addition to that, there is another Durga Puja in Lokhandwala Garden which is usually attended by celebrities.