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Decoding Durga Puja: ‘Shakti’ is all about women’s empowerment

Kanti Bhattacharya, a Brahmin priest at the city’s 78-year-old Durga Puja pandal in Khadki, Kalibari, shares the significance of the festival and the symbolical lores associated with it.

pune Updated: Sep 25, 2017 18:29 IST
Ananya Barua
Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals of ‘Shakti worship’, wherein the female goddess is worshipped in all her prominent forms.
Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals of ‘Shakti worship’, wherein the female goddess is worshipped in all her prominent forms. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals of ‘Shakti worship’, wherein the female goddess is worshipped in all her prominent forms.

Kanti Bhattacharya, a Brahmin priest at the city’s 78-year-old Durga Puja pandal in Khadki, Kalibari, shares the significance of the festival and the symbolical lores associated with it.

“This festival is about women’s empowerment, whereby a form of the Mother Goddess, Shakti, incarnates as goddess Durga inculcating the purest power of all the gods to kill the asura (demon) named Mahishasur. While all of this is mythological lore, it also has deep symbolic significance in recent times and will always be relevant,” he says.

Explaining the details of the puja, he adds, “As mentioned, Durga is the amalgamation of powers given to her by devatas (gods), which are in the form of 10 different weapons in her 10-handed physical self.” 

As per the Bengali rituals, the ceremony begins with ‘Bodhon’ a ritual which involves waking up the gods and goddesses. “It is believed that they sleep during ‘okaal bodhon’ and so, to begin the puja and welcome goddess Durga, we wake them up with sounds of mantra chantings, conch shells, drums and bells, amid the smoke of holy incense sticks and flowers,” Bhattacharya adds.

The ceremony, this year, will begin on September 25 and continue till September 26.

As the Bengali calendar differs from the commonly used Gregorian calendar, dates and timings of the ceremonies overlap. “So, Shoshti, which is the sixth day of the Durga Puja begins from 1 pm on September 25 and continues till September 26.” 

On the next day, ‘Shoptomi’ which means the seventh day of the festival, before the invocation of the goddess in the idol as per the ritual, priests worship the ‘Nobo Durga’. Nobo Durga is the ninth durga, in the form of a plant made of branches from nine different plants. Bhattacharya says this amalgamated form is, then, ceremonially bathed with turmeric and oil, clothed in the traditional white sari with a red border and worshipped as the goddess. 

Every day of the festival marks the battle between good and evil, whereby the goddess takes different forms and uses the different weapons to fight the asuras (demons). The eighth day or ashthami, on September 28, is when the worship of ‘Chamunda’ or goddess Kali commences. “The ceremony is known as Shondhi Puja and begins in the last 24 minutes of ashtami and continues till the first 24 minutes of Nobomi, or the ninth day. During this ritual, a total of 108 lamps are lit and with the same number of lotus flowers we rejoice in the victory of the goddess. It is on this day, that she triumphs over Mahishasur,” Bhattacharya adds.

Later, on September 29, which is the ninth day, a ritual of ‘Kumari puja’ meaning worship of the goddess in the form of young girls, is carried out. 

On the last day, Vijayadashami, meaning the 10th day of victory, cacophonies of conch shells, dhak (drum) beats along with sounds of ‘ulu’ ward off negative spirits. “The goddess is then bid adieu in an extravagant manner,” he concludes.