Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the eastern part of India, specially in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura. Apart from Eastern part of India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Goddess Durga is the widely worshiped deity of Sakti including various forms corresponding to her two aspects benevolence and fierceness. She is the personification of tender love, wealth, power, beauty and all virtues. She is also known as Parvati, Uma, Gauri, Ambika, Jagatmata, Bhairavi, Chandi and Kali in different avatars.
During Durga Puja, God in the form of the Divine Mother is worshiped in Her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati together. Though the Goddess is one, She is represented and worshiped in three different aspects.
On this day Goddess Durga arrives from her heavenly abode, accompanied by her children. She is welcomed amidst the beats of dhak. The main ritual is unveiling the face of the idol. Kalaparambho, the ritual performed before the commencement of the puja precedes Bodhon, Amontron and Adibas.
Saptami is the first day of Durga puja. Kola Bou (Nabapatrika) is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The main Saptami Puja follows Kalparambho and Mahasnan.
The day began with a recital of Sanskrit hymns. Thousands of devotees offer anjali to the goddess. Kumari Puja (worship of little girls) as the Mother Goddess is a special part of the rituals observed in several traditional pujas. Sandhi Puja is an important aspect, which links Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami.
The concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Navami puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. The Navami Bhog is offered to the Goddess, which is later taken as the prasad by the devotees.
Dashami (the last day), a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.
Different Forms of Durga
- Durga Shailputri (Daughter of Mountain): She is Parvati – Hemvati, daughter of Himalaya and first among nine Durgas. In previous birth she was Sati - Bhavani, the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Lord Shiva.
- Brahmacharini: The second Durga Shakti is Brahamcharini / Uma. Brahma (One who observes penance). The idol of this Goddess is very gorgeous. There is rosary in her right hand and Kamandal in left hand.
- Chandraghanta: The name of third Shakti is Chandraghanta. There is a half-circular moon in her forehead. She is golden coloured goddess, charmful and bright, astride on a lion. She has three eyes and ten hands holding ten types of weapons.
- Kushmanda: The name of fourth Durga is Kushmanda. She has eight hands and rides a lion. Seven types of weapons are shining in her seven hands and she helds Rosary in her right hand. She resides in solar systems, shines brightly in all the ten directions like Sun.
- Skanda Mata: Fifth name of Durga is "Skanda Mata". The daughter of Himalaya, after observing penance got married with Shiva. She had a son named Skanda (Leader of the army of Gods). Skanda Mata is a deity of fire, she has three eyes & four hands and is seated on a lotus.
- Katyayani: Sixth Durga is Katyayani. Rishi Katyayan had observed penance with a desire to get paramba as his daughter. As a result she took birth as a daughter of Katyayan. Therefore her name is "Katyayani". She has three eyes & eight hands and is seated on a lion.
- Kalratri: Seventh Durga is Kalratri. She is black like night. She has three eyes and she rides on Shava (dead body). There is sharp sword in her right hand. Her lower hand is in blessing mood. The burning torch (mashal) is in her left hand and her lower left hand is in fearless style, by which she makes her devotees fearless. Being auspicious she is called "Shubhamkari."
- Maha Gauri: The Eighth Durga is "Maha Gauri." She is as white as a conch, moon and Jasmine. She is of 8 years old. Her clothes and ornaments are white and clean. She has three eyes. She rides on bull She has four hands. The above left hand is in "Fearless - Mudra" and lower left hand holds "Trishul." The above right hand has tambourine and lower right hand is in blessing style. She is calm and peaceful and exists in peaceful style.
- Siddhidatri: Ninth Durga is known as Siddhidatri. There are eight Siddhis, they are - Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakamya, Iishitva & Vashitva. Maha Shakti gives all these Siddhis. The Goddess drives on Lion. She has four hands and looks pleased.