Tuesday, 11 October 2016

When the Mother Goddess comes visiting!

A Bengali neighborhood beset with colorful pandals.

Imposing idols that leave you awestruck. Rows upon rows of colorful lighting that is a feast to the eyes.

he fervent beating of the Dhaks and the Dhols amidst the blowing of conches and ululations reaching a crescendo with the simultaneous thumping of your heart.

The smells wafting in the air, leading you to the sumptuous bhog and the mouth-watering delicacies.

Beautifully dressed ladies in traditional crisp, white sarees with red borders and sporting huge vermillion bindis on their foreheads.

That pretty much sums up the biggest festival of the eastern part of India- DurgaPujo!

As behind all Indian festivals, there is an interesting story behind the installation of these huge idols. The festival is said to mark the annual visit of Sati to her parents’ house.

King Daksha’s beautiful daughter Sati nursed a desire to marry Lord Shiva. She undertook a difficult penance, worshiping the Lord. Pleased with her devotion and worship, Lord Shiva married her. This invoked the wrath of her egoistic father, who abhorred the marriage of his daughter to the ascetic Shiva. To register his displeasure, Daksha conducted a yagna but purposefully did not invite Lord Shiva. Humiliated and angered Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire giving up her life.

The saddened and enraged LordShiva took on a fierce avatar and slew Daksha though the Lord later forgave him and brought him back to life giving him the head of a goat. Daksha's pride was shattered. 

Sati was reborn as Parvati and reunited with her Lord. Since peace had been restored between her husband and her father, she is believed to visit her parents annually in the month of Ashvin along with her entourage.

This is brought alive in form of beautiful clay idols depicting scenes from the stories of Goddess Durga.

What greets you at the pandal is the captivating idol of the Goddess with thick, long flowing hair, alluring almond shaped eyes, bedecked in all her finery, strikingly beautiful in her rage, riding a lion. With ten outstretched arms, she holds war weapons; slaying a demon with a glistening trident.Accompanying her, are her sons- Lord Ganesha and Lord Karthik, along with Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati and her two Sakhis- friends Jaya and Bijaya.

The whiff of flowers and incense is surreal and the rhythmic beats of the dhaks and dhols transport you a different world. It is amazing how your physical self seamlessly transcends into a spiritual realm, even as you stand before her with folded hands and closed eyes.

As you soak in the abundance of art, colorful lights and music, coupled with the delicious aroma of food and the sound of laughter, you can feel your senses bloom in delight!

The festivities that begin with Mahalaya, reach a crescendo by day six, called as Soshti. The seventh-day isMahaSaptami. Navapatrikapujan is an important ritual on this day, marked by offering a bunch leaves from nine different plants representing the nine forms of the Goddess Durga.

Durgashtami is celebrated on the eighth day.Pushpanjali or worshipping with flowers amidst chanting of mantras is done. Bedecked, pre-pubescent girls are worshipped as an embodiment of Goddess Durga during the Kumarika Pujan.

The ninth day is MahaNabami. Ayudha Puja is also celebrated on this day, where people worship tools, implements of their livelihood and place it before the goddess and pray before her.

The tenth day is Bijayadashami which brings the festivities to an end. Devi Boron marks the final sendoff of the Mother to her abode amidst throwing of the vermilion on each other in a ritual called te Sindoor Khela. 

After this elaborate ritual, all those beautifully sculpted pandals are brought down and it is time for the Visarjan and the idols are immersed in the river. 

Whether it is the unbelievable pageant of lights or the elaborate Maha-aartis at pandals, the aroma of the food or the perfume of incense and flowers, the beating of the dhaks or the ululations and conch blowing, the glitter of the deity or the glamour of womenfolk, the Durga Pujo has it all!

The boisterous spirit of the festival never fails to cast a spell or leave you charmed, the spirituality behind the revelry striking a chord deep within.

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