PUJA DAYS

MAHALAYA

The traditional six day countdown to Mahasaptami starts from Mahalaya. Goddess Durga visits the earth for only four days but seven days prior to the Pujas, starts the Mahalaya. The enchanting voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra fill up the predawn hours of the day thus marking the beginning of "devipaksha" and the beginning of the count-down of Durga Puja. Sarat in its bloom, mingled with the festive spirit of Durga Puja reaches its pitch on the day of Mahalaya.

From this day starts 'Devipaksha' and marks the end of 'Pitri-paksha'. It is the day when many throng to the banks of river Ganga, clad in dhotis to offer prayers to their dead relatives and forefathers. People in the pre-dawn hours pray for their demised relatives and take holy dips in the Ganges. This ritual is known as 'Torpon'. This day bears immense significance for the Bengalis. It is according to the myths that Sree Rama hastily performed Durga Puja just before he set for Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana.

According to Puranas, King Suratha, used to worship the goddess Durga in spring. Thus Durga Puja was also known as Basanti Puja. But Rama proponed the Puja and worshiped Durga in autumn and that is why it is known as 'Akal Bodhon' or untimely worship. It was considered untimely as it is in the myths that puja was performed when the Gods and Goddesses were awake i.e. "Uttarayan" and was not held when the Gods and Goddesses rested ie."Dakshinayan". It was on the day of Mahalaya, the beginning of "devipoksha", the Gods and Goddesses woke up to prepare themselves for Durga Puja.

The five festive days of Puja welcoming Devi Durga is aplomb with rituals and accompanied with dhak, dhunuchi and shiuli.

SASTHI

Shashti, the sixth day of the moon when Goddess Durga is welcomed with much fanfare and gusto. Look for the 'Bodhon' rituals when the face of the Durga is unveiled.

SAPTAMI

Saptami features the first day of Durga puja; commencement of rituals; predawn bathing of 'Kola Bow'.

ASTHAMI

Most important day of Durga Puja; celebrating Durga's victory over Mahishasur; devotees recite the mantras and offer flowers to Devi Durga (pushpanjali) and pray for her blessings; rituals of animal sacrifices; animals are now substituted with 'chalkumro' (type of pumpkin), cucumber and banana.

NAVAMI

Last day of Durga Puja; commencement of 'Sandhi Puja'. Nabami Bhog...Goddess Durga is offered food which is later distributed among the devotees.
"Sandhi puja" ( 108 'Dip' lighted ) End moment of Ashtami and the beginning of Nabami is the time for Sandhi Puja. At this time Devi Durga transformed into Devi Camunda to kill "Chando" and "Mundo", the two generals of Mahishasura (the Buffalo Demon ).

DASHAMI

Dashami is the day when Goddess Durga accompanied with her children sets for Kailash, her husband's abode. With a heavy heart the Bengalis immerse the clay idol of Durga in the sacred Ganges bidding her goodbye and earnestly waiting to see her again the next year.
"Sindur Khela" (Vermillion game) is a major event of Dashami. Married women apply vermilion to each other and greet each other with sweets. It is in the evening when Goddess Durga is immersed Bengalis greet each other with bijoya greetings and men follow the customary 'Kolakuli' (embrace each other). Durga Puja is a festival, Bengalis celebrate without religious inhibitions. It is more of a socio- cultural celebration that tends to renew kinship with friends and relatives.

( text collected from various websites)
 

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