Durga Puja

Durga Puja was originally a festival which was celebrated at home; in fact, some families still continue to celebrate it that way. Earlier it was celebrated with much solemnity with great respect to tradition. Today, the emphasis is more on the size and presentation of the puja mandap; the mandap takes the form of exotic structures like the Versailles Palace or a tribal cottage from the Nepal mountains.

Durga Puja is Bengal's biggest festival and ranks among the most popular festivals of India. The four days of the festival are devoted to the worship of goddess Durga and celebrates her victory over the demon Mahisasura - a victory of good over evil. The beginning is marked by Mahalaya, commonly known as Navaratra all over India, which occurs seven days before the main festival. The last day of the festival is known as Bijoya Dashami, and is a day for exchanging greetings.

There are many organisations today which are working towards preserving the traditional Durga Puja. Some of these are Suruchi Sangha, Ahiritola Sarbojanin , Sovabazar Beniatola and Bagbazar Sarbojonin Durga Utsav Committee. Organisations agree that today business is placed above tradition. For instance, traditions attached to making the idol are disappearing: the eyes of the Durga idol should be completed and opened on Mahalaya - the beginning of Devipaksha. But nowadays due to the importance given to the quantum of work obtained artisans do not follow this practice in most places. Artisans are bound more by the needs of the organisers than their dedication to religious beliefs, craft or skills.

Source: www.durga-puja.org www.calcuttaweb.com www.newzstreet.com

Contributed by: Reema Bannerjee, CEE Kolkata

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