Durga Puja is the most popular festival of the Bengali community. It involves the worship of Goddess Durga who is considered as the symbol of strength. The festival is widely celebrated in the state of West Bengal in India. However, there are other Indian states which conduct the Puja. Durga Puja celebrations include a variety of traditions, customs, and rituals that set the festive mood for the occasion.
Here's an insight into Durga Puja customs, traditions, and rituals followed on each day of the festival.
On Shashti, the first day of Durga Puja, people welcome Goddess Durga by performing a ritual known as 'Pran Prathistha'. This ritual is all about worshipping the goddess to invoke her holy presence into the idols.
Unveiling the face of the deity: On the evening of Shashti, the face of the idol is unveiled. This Durga Puja custom is known as 'Bodhon'. It is considered as an occasion when the devotees invite the Goddess for the festivities.
A number of ingredients are required to perform this ritual, such as Bel tree, a green coconut with stalk, flowers, four bamboo arrows, and other items.
Pre-dawn bath on Maha Saptami: Nine types of plants including a small banana tree are bathed and worshipped during pre-dawn hours of Saptami. This Durga Puja ritual is known as 'Kola Bou Snan' or 'Nabapatrika' in Bengali. 'Kola Bou' refers to the small banana plant that is bathed during this ritual.
From Saptami to Dashami, people offer their prayers to the Goddess through 'Pushpanjali'. This is a special kind of worship where the devotees pray to Goddess Durga with folded arms and flowers.
From Saptami to Dashami, a special kind of food known as 'bhog', is offered to the Goddess.
The key ingredient of the 'bhog' is khichadi. This food is later on distributed to the devotees as 'prasad'. Women actively participate in preparing the 'bhog'.
Once the worship of Goddess Durga is over at each night of the festival, an aarti is performed. This is followed by the beating of the 'dhak', a special kind of drum widely used during Durga Puja.
The person playing the drum holds it on his shoulder and beats it with a thick and a thin stick. The use of 'dhak' is a significant part of Durga Puja traditions and rituals. People love the sound of this musical instrument and enjoy dancing to the beats of the drum.
Out of all the days of Durga Puja, Ashtami is the most significant one. It is the day when 'Kumari Puja' is performed.
This is one of the Durga Puja rituals, which includes the worship of a little girl treated as the Goddess. This is done with a popular belief that the Goddess makes her presence felt in a pure-hearted little girl.
On this day, several puja communities organize a feast where people relish the 'bhog' that is initially offered to the deity.
One of the prominent Durga Puja rituals is the Sandhi Puja. It is held during the crossover time between Ashtami and Navami.This puja is performed by lighting 108 earthen lamps and offering prayers to the Goddess with 108 lotuses. Once Sandhi Puja is over, it's time for Navami Puja.
The last day of Durga Puja is known as Vijaya Dashami. On this day, the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in ponds or rivers.
Most puja communities immerse the idol in the sacred water of the Ganges. However, some people prefer to immerse the idol one or two days after Dashami