WORSHIP OF MA DURGA

Durga Puja, the festival of Bengalis is the worship of 'Shakti' or the divine power. Most of the religious celebrations in the world have legends surrounding them. The fables are generally the fight between the evil and the good, the dark forces eventually succumbing to the divine. Worship of Goddess Durga is based on myths where Durga symbolizes the divine power.

We worship Durga as the mother goddess, the epitome of 'Shakti' (divine power), to deliver us from the evil and bring peace and prosperity in our lives. But the most interesting part of Durga Puja is that, instead of placing Durga on a high alter and worshipping her from a distance the Bengalis embrace her in their hearts and make her an inseparable member of the family. We welcome Durga to the earth as our daughter who comes at her parents' home for her annual visits. Durga stays for four days-Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami and Nabami along with her children, Ganesha, Laxmi, Kartik and Saraswati and sets for her husband's abode on Vijaya Dashami.

Durga's mode of journey to the earth is detailed in scriptures. The modes, an elephant, a horse, palanquin, boat all signify luck or omen which influence the life on earth. The elephant signifies prosperity and good harvest while journey on a horse back indicates drought, a palanquin spells wide spread epidemic and the boat suggests flood and misery.

According to Puranas, King Suratha, used to worship the goddess Durga in spring. Thus Durga Puja was also known as Basanti Puja.

The worship of Devi Durga however owes its origin to Sree Rama. In the 'Ramayana', as it goes, Rama went to 'Lanka' to rescue his abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the king of the Demons in Lanka. Before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the blessings of Devi Durga . He came to know that the Goddess would be pleased only if she is worshipped with one hundred 'NeelKamal' or blue lotuses. Rama, after travelling the whole world, could gather only ninety nine of them. He finally decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled blue lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared before him and blessed him. The epical battle started on the 'Saptami' and Ravana was finally killed on the 'Sandhikshan' i.e. the crossover period between Ashtami (the next day) and Navami (the day after). Ravana was cremated on Dashami. This is why Dashera is celebrated in India with so much of fanfare and the effigy of Raavana is burnt.

In course of time Bengalis adopted the autumnal worship of Durga performed by Rama and made it their main festival and that is why it is known as 'Akal Bodhon' or untimely worship. The Pujas span over the four days, the time taken by Rama to finally kill and cremate Ravana.

( text collected from various websites)

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