All those who follow Durga Puja are aware of the different rituals that are followed during these 10days puja. There is a significance and reason behind every single ritual that is practiced during Durga Puja. All these rituals have a mythological story behind it which many of us are unaware of
Goddess Durga descends from her heavenly abode in Kailash to visit her devotees on earth every year. She comes with her children Devi Lakshmi, Devi Saraswati, Lord Kartik and Lord Ganesha.
Devi Paksha rituals start from Mahalaya and people do Tarpan on the day. Mahalaya means “Maha” meaning Big and “Laya” meaning Destruction. It is the day when there was the big war between the Devtas, Rishis with the Asuras. The war started on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra and ended on amavasya or Mahalaya as we call the day. Many Devtas and Rishis died in the hands of asuras. Devtas and Rishis are considered to be our forefathers hence the ritual of Tarpan. We pray for the peace for our entire forefather’s souls’.
Actual puja starts from the sixth day, the Shashthi. This is the day when Maa arrives on Earth. It starts with Bodhan. To stop Mahisasur’s tyranny the Gods combined their energy to summon Devi Durga. She was born at the ashram of sage Katyana hence known as Katyayani. She was then armed by the Gods with symbols of divine power to kill Mahisasur. She was armed with Vishnu’s discus; Shiva’s trident; Varuna’s conch shell; Agni’s flaming dart; Vayu’s bow; Surya’s quiver and arrow; Yama’s iron rod; Indra’s thunderbolt; Kubera’s club and a garland of snakes from Shesha and a lion as a charger from Himalayas. Bodhan marks that moment when Maa was given all the arms, she was given the divine symbols. To denote the same, her face is uncovered on this day of Shashti followed by Bodhan.
Next day is Saptami and it starts with a ritual called “Kola Bou” bathing. A banana tree stalk is taken and bathed in a nearby river/pond and then draped with a Bengali style white red border saree. It is then kept on the left side of Lord Ganesha as traditionally it is said “Kola Bou” is the wife of Ganesha. Traditions aside, this Kola Bou puja goes back to many years. It is actually not just a banana stalk that is put, ritual says in all nine plants are taken and put there after the same bathing rituals. It’s called “Nabapatrika” puja. The nine plants represent the nine forms of Shakti. Banana – Goddess Brahmani, Turmeric – Durga, Collacasia – Kalika, Jayanti – Kartiki, Wood Apple – Goddess Shiva (another name of Durga), Pomegranate – Raktadantika, Ashoka – Sokrahita, Arum – Chamunda and Rice – Lakshmi. All these plants are bathed with water from 8 different waters and then put on the left side of Ganesha. Over the years this ritual has shrunk to just banana stalk bathing in water. Nabapatrika represent the primitive form of Durga Puja, done during early autumn for good harvest and when Durga puja became popular, it got added here as part of the ritual.
Ashtami is considered the most auspicious day of Durga Puja and the most spiritual ritual of Ashtami being – the Sandhi Puja. It is done at the juncture of Ashtami and Navami. Sandhikshan when sandhi puja is done falls between last 24 minutes of Ashtami and first 24 minutes of Navami. This is the exact time when the two asuras Chanda and Munda was slain by Maa Durga.
Dashami or as we call Vijaya Dashami is the day when she killed Mahisasura. The evil asura was killed by her and earth freed of his torments. Vijaya Dashami ends the puja too. The idol of Durga after puja is taken to a water body and immersed. Immersion denotes her journey back to Kailash. Everyone bid a tearful adieu to the Goddess with the hope “She’ll be coming again next year”.
Each of these rituals that we follow during Durga Puja has some mythological connection. When you go through the ritual details and the mythology, you realize how intricately they are all connected. These are just few. Every other ritual when studied in depth, you find the mythological connection visible.
It’s again time of Durga Puja. Everything and everyone around seem to be in a cheerful upbeat mood. Every face in the streets of Bengal smiling! Wishing all my friends and family a very happy and blessed Durga Puja!!