Goddess Durga is one of the most important deities in Hindu philosophy. She is the central deity in Shaktism and is considered to be the ultimate Brahman or reality. Durga means impossible to defeat. She is the fierce form of Adi Parashakti who is the slayer of demons. Though she personifies the divine feminine, she is endowed with all weapons of the male deities. She is the divine Shakti or force and the ultimate protector of this Universe. She is also known as the Goddess of war and has been invoked or worshiped upon before the onset of battles like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Goddess Durga is the most popular Goddess in eastern India and is worshipped extensively there. The 10 day festival of Durga Puja is the most important festival for East India. During this festival it is believed that Goddess Durga with her children Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi, and Saraswati descend on Earth. The nine forms known as Navadurga is worshipped during this 10-day festival. The 10th day known as Vijay Dashami is celebrated marking her victory over evil forces. Her consort Shiva is also worshipped during this festival.
It is believed that Goddess Durga is the ferocious form of Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati had to take her form to kill powerful demons like Mahisasur. This demon was blessed with a boon that no man or male God could slay them. This made him invincible and he started misusing his powers. His atrocity against women increased as well. He was creating havoc in the Universe and that is when Gods approached Parvati for assistance. The Gods gave all their mighty weapons and power to her. This is how Goddess Durga emerged from Parvati and killed Mahisasur.
In another tale Mahisasur tries to attack Kartikeya. Kartikeya himself is the God of war, but Mahisasur knew that no male god could kill him because of the boon given to him by Brahma. Goddess Parvati to protect her son takes the fiery form of Durga and kills Mahisasur. She is the epitome of motherly love who would go to any extent to protect her children. She is also known as Mahisasur Mardini because she killed Mahisasur. Her ten arms signify that she protects her devotees from all directions. She rides a lion or a tiger which signifies ultimate strength and power.
The nine different forms known as Navadurga are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidatri. These forms are worshipped and meditated upon during the 10 day festival of Durga Puja. There are several other beautiful rituals associated with this grand festival. Few important ones.
The idol is made using the soil in front of a brothel. The soil in front of the brothel is considered very pure as it is believed that before entering into a brothel a man leaves behind all his purity into the soil. Hence this soil is used for making the Idol.
Kola Bou - She is a goddess who is married to Lord Ganesha during Durga Puja. She is known as the banana brie as she resides within a banana tree. On the 7th day (Saptami) a small banana tree representing her is bathed in sacred waters of Ganga and then decorated as a bride. The tree is then placed on the right-hand side of Lord Ganesha's idol. She is then worshiped as a new bride of Ganesha.
Sandhi Puja - This is the most important ritual conducted during Durga Puja. During this puja, the Chamunda form of Durga is worshiped and meditated upon. It is believed that Goddess Durga in the form of Chamunda kill demons, Chanda and Munda, during the period when Sandhi Puja rituals take place. She is worshiped by igniting 108 lamps. This ritual takes place during the end of 8th Day (Ashtami tithi) and the beginning of the 9th day (Navami)
Kumari Puja - This is another ritual where young girls are worshiped on the 8th or the 9th day of the festival. This puja is also known as Kanya Puja. The young girls are considered as the purest feminine form and hence worshiped as Goddess Shakti herself.
Sindur Khela - This is another famous Bengali custom which happens on the last day. It marks a final farewell to the Goddess. The ritual is celebrated by married Bengali women by applying vermilion on each other and the Goddess as well. This is a playful ritual and in this way they bid their final goodbye to the Goddess.
The festival of Durga Puja is indeed one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India. The entire country comes alive with a vibrant celebration. People all across forget their woes and come together to be a part of this auspicious ceremony. Words cannot describe the essence and beauty of this festival and one has to personally experience.
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