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Durga Devyai Namo Namah!

Durga Devyai Namo Namah

Sentinel Digital Desk

Mousumi Deka

Durga Puja is one of my favourite festivals, a festival which is a blend of bhakti, prayer, culture and entertainment. Duringmy childhood, I was associated with this festival very closely in the neighbourhood Puja pandals of Gauhati University Campus Puja and Sundarbari Puja of Jalukbari, Guwahati. From the time of 'Belbaran' till 'Vijaya Dasami', we enjoyed every bit of the celebrations. Since early morning,all of us children gathered at the Puja pandals, dressed in the best of our attires presented by our parents or relatives. We kept ourselves busy playing with colourful balloons, pistols, etc.

During the time of'Pushpanjali', we were called by our parents and we rushed to the pandals and stood near the idols chanting mantras to the tune of the pujari...."Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Matru Rupena Sansthitha Namastasai Namastasai Namastasai Namo Namah…"and with the chanting of the mantra "Durga Devyai Namo Namah", we all children competed with each other, throwing the flowers in an attempt to reach the goddess.

After having mouth- watering Khichiri, Labra tokari and sweet Tok, we used to take a short nap to get energised for the rest of the evening. Sometimes, we watched movies in big white cloth screens and enjoyed the cultural functions organised by the Puja committee. I still remember watching "Ojapali" during one of the Puja celebrations and I really liked the way the small group of artists performed the show with the rhythm of cymbals in their hands. The sound of the cymbals are still reverberating in my ears even today.

"Vijaya Dashami" was the much sought after day of the festival as we went to see the immersion of the goddess of different Puja pandals at Pandu ghat and had mouth-watering food in the tea-stalls located in the immersion area while coming back home with packets of singara and big jelebis. It was a ritual for us to have jelabis in Vijaya Dashami and it still continues, irrespective of the place I am living in. In those days, the Puja pandalsused to be simple; the Gods and Goddesses were adorned with the minimum of decorations surrounded by either some tree branches or kept in decorated hillocks or clouds made of cotton. Slowly,colourful lights and modern day gadgets started becoming an integral part of the decorations. Unknowingly, the decoration of puja pandals slowly become the priority for most puja committees.

Knowing that Kolkata is famous for its Durga Puja celebrations, particularly the Puja pandals and idols of Goddess which are a must-see, once I made it a point to visit Kolkata during the time of Durga Puja. And my trip was really worth it. In Koltata, the Puja pandals are decoratedon various themes and are really huge and very decorative. The big pandals with their unique decorations make each one really special.

The organisers arrange competitions among the Puja pandals and it is nice to watch Puja on television as it gives a lot of information about the Puja pandals which win prizes!! Accordingly, one can plan a visit to the pandal of one's choice. Although I visited many must-seepandals,they couldn't quench my thirst to appreciate the pandals and the beauty of Goddess Ma Durga.

Mesmerised by the people's dedication to bring life to the idols of Ma Durga, once I visited Kolkata a few days before Puja to witness the artisans giving the final touches to the idols in Kumartuli area. Kolkata's Kumartuli area is a traditional potter's hub. It is famous for the works of potters who create clay idols of all kinds. The town not only manufactures clay idols for various festivals but also regularly exports them all over the country. The area is 300 years old and I was really astonished to see so many small workshops in its small roads filled with clay idols of different shapes and sizes. The artisans were busy working day and night. It is a known fact that during the time ofDurgaPuja, more artisans are hired from other places to fulfil the huge requirements.

Nowadays, as a resident of Noida, Durga Puja is celebrated in an altogether different fashion. "Navaratri", as it is called in North India, is observed here with full faith. The Navaratri festivalis a nine nights-long festival where each day is associated with different incarnations of Goddess Durga.

Day 1 –Shailaputri:Known as Pratipada, this day is associated with Shailaputri (literally "Daughter of the Mountains"), an incarnation of Parvati. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshiped as the consort of Shiva; she is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishul in her right hand and a lotus in her left hand. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali.

Day 2 -Brahmcharini:On Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. The colour of the day is Royal Blue which depicts calmness-cum-energy.

Day 3 –Chandraghanta: Tritiya commemorates the worship of Chandraghanta - the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra(literally moon). She is the embodiment of beauty and is also symbolic of bravery, and hence, the colour of the day is yellow.

Day 4 –Kushmunda:Goddess Kushmunda is worshiped on Chaturthi. Believed to be the creative power of universe, Kushmunda is associated to the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the colour of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a tiger.

Day 5 –Skandmata:Skandamata, the goddess worshiped on Panchami, is the mother of Skand(or Kartikeya). The colour grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted as riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.

Day 6 –Katyayani:Born to a sage, Katya is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the colour Orange. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.

Day 7 –Kalratri:Considered as the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on lalisaptmi. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbh and Nisumbh. The colour of the day is white. Her skin turns black.

Day 8 –Mahagauri:Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The colour associated with this day is Pink which depicts optimism.

Day 9 – Sidhidatri:On the last day of the festival, which is also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri (Ardanareeswara). Seated on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. She is also known as Saraswati Devi.

People in North India used to fast or take vegetarian food during the nine days of this festival. In North India, this festival is also synonymous with"Rama Leela" and "Dussehra" that celebrates the battle and victory of God Rama over the demon king Ravana. Accordingly, Ramleelashows are organised in many places where Ram Katha is narrated with beautiful dramas and stage performances enacted by renowned artistes. On the tenth day of the festival, "Dussehra" is performed to celebrate the victory of God Rama over Ravana by burning huge statues of Ravana along with Kumbhakarna and Meghanada with attractive fireworks.. These are really a must-see performance in this area and are unique on their own way.

Apart from seeing these performances, I always prefer to visit few a Puja pandals in Delhi NCR region. The Puja pandals of Chittaranjan Park of Delhi are not to be missed. It is like a little Kolkata with elegant pandals and elegant idols. In other locations as well, small communities perform Durga Puja in their own style and I am lucky to have a friend Sudip, who is one of the organisers in their community. It is because of him that I get the opportunity to offer pushpanjalito the idol and can fulfil my childhood dream of offering flowers to the Goddess. And I really enjoy doing it along with chanting of the mantra:"DurgaDevyai NamoNamah".

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