Introduction "Durga durge durgoti nashini..Singha bahani,shakti dayini". The advent of autumn paves the way for mother goddess to arrive.The blue sky, the gentle breeze bring the news of her home coming."Maa ashche" is the word that people of all ages say, getting enthralled. Maa comes,bringing health, wealth and happiness all around.
Mahalaya The beginning of Durga puja is characterised by Mahalaya. On this day, people are found to offer water to their parents who had passed away. They pray so that their parents can rest in eternal peace. Another occurrence is the spell of Mahalaya chanted by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Waking up early in the morning and listening to that mantra still creates goosebumps within our souls."Bajlo tomar alo r benu" is the song which is a must during Durga puja. Mahalaya triggers the beginning of Devi Paksha, marking an end to Pitri Paksha.
Preparation for those 5 days The most exciting event is the preparation, that is being taken 3-4 months prior to Puja. The entire state of West Bengal, specially Kolkata wraps itself up in a new and vibrant way. Hundreds and thousands of pandals pop up in every possible region. Theme puja is the current trend these days. So throat cut competition is seen among different pandals. Different organisations are there like Asian Paints, Berger, news channels like ABP Anondo, Star, R Plus who award the winners in several categories. Be it is a 5 year old kid or an old man of 70, puja is for everyone, rather Maa Durga is for everyone. Shopping malls, shops, markets all stacked with people buying new clothes and accessories. Colours, fashion, designs are everywhere. More excitement is seen among women. Matching Dupatta, blouse , jewellery, bags, shoes, sunglasses and what not? Those five days people live a life of dreams.
Maa's home coming from Kumortuli Bringing Maa to puja pandals is a matter of mirth and fun. Members of clubs and organizations are found to book Matador and trucks. Together they go to Kumortuli which is a store house of thousands and thousands of Durga and other gods. A clustered area with nearabout 250 shops selling gods of clay. Though none of them are very rich financially but their artistic touch is very rich and perfect. They carry out their tasks of meeting thousands of demands of Durga idols! Some want 'ek chala r protima' , some other demand Durga idol of 60 feet while others crave for modern Durga. They portray maa's eyes with utmost proficiency and perfection. Looking at some idols, it feels to stare at her eyes for days- such is their creativity.
Brief history of puja Maa Durga arrives to her parental home to stay for five days. She is accompanied by her 4 sons and daughters Karthik, Ganesh, Saraswati and Laksmi. The Durga idol itself has 10 hands each provided with different weapons. She is seen killing 'mahishasur'. Durga Pratima depicts that good fortune has arrived keeping the evils aside, light has removed the darkness.
Events occurring on those 5 days Puja starts on Sashti - the sixth day, with Maa's 'bodhon' where a tree resembling mother goddess is worshipped. Then comes Saptami - the seventh day which is characterised by 'Kolabou snan' at Ganga. A banana stem is washed in water and a white-red saree is wound around its body. It is kept beside Ganesh idol. Then Ashtami - the eighth day comes. It starts with offering 'anjali' to maa. People are seen wearing traditional clothes that day. Ashtami night remains very important. Sandhi puja occurs when 108 lotus are offered to maa and on banana leaf 108 diyas (lamps) are enlightened. Mythology states that during that 'sandhikhon'- transition period, maa Durga killed Mahishasur! On navami - the ninth day, 'hom-jogya' that is 'yaagna' occurs. At night aarti (worship) takes place along with 'dhunuchi nach '. But the last day of dashami brings tears to our eyes. The day remarks the end of Maa Durga's stay here. People become heart broken and mournful. Durga and other idols are carried to Ganga for immersion.
Pandals and decoration In these five days, Kolkata - the city of joy becomes so lively. Pandals, hoardings, advertisement, bright lighting decorate the city. Numerous theme pujo takes place in every possible region. Some of them are Naktala Udayan Sangha, Jodhpur Park, Tollygunge, Suruchi Sangha, Sribhoomi, Ekdalia, Bagbazar and many others. Some pandals are made of tin, some are of paper, some are of bamboo sticks, while some others are made of recyclable stuffs. Some pandals bring forward important messages like "Woman Empowerment","Plant more Trees" etcetera. The sad part is that, this much of hard works of the designer, the labourers,the workers are only for 5 days. There after they will be broken down into pieces! However these days, those magnificent creations of terrific perfection are preserved somewhere.
Conclusion The city dwellers are the happiest this time. Pandal hopping is a must for everyone. Wearing new clothes they are all set. Standing in long queue for hours to watch pandals or even waiting for getting a seat at restaurants become a practice for people. However there are people who even cannot afford to buy a single piece of new cloth. Even in that much light, their lives remain in darkness. They crave for the food that are being wasted by us. Let the mother goddess bring light to their lives. Let their lives be filled with happiness and laughter. Let Pujo be enjoyed togetherly!