With the arrival of the autumn season, the eastern part of India always wake up with a feeling of renewed happiness that Ma Durga or Goddess Durga is soon coming to enchant the world with a spirit of festivity and bless us with hope and prosperity for a new tomorrow. The herald of the ‘Season of Mellow Fruitfulness’ always excites us with the gleeful thought that the festival of Durga Puja is approaching and thereby the preparations for welcoming the Mother must be set in full swing. From making it a point to buy sufficient clothes so that we do not feel a deficiency of good garments to wear during the five festive days of Durga Puja ( i.e. Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami) to cleaning the house properly so that rays of positivity surround us with the coming of the Mother Goddess, Durga Puja is an emotional celebration that is taken and observed seriously. The age old traditions of the Holy Festival of the Autumn Season are acutely followed with full blown vigour by the old, middle-aged, youth and the kids. When the day of Dashami arrives, it is a fact that a feeling of sadness engulfs every person as the energetic enthusiasm synonymously associated with the festival comes to a stop as the idols of Ma Durga are immersed in the waters to signify her journey back to Heaven after spending days of happiness with mortal beings on Earth. The blissful sight of the night-flowering jasmine (Shiuli) in full blossom along with the smell of its pleasant fragrance which merges smoothly with the autumn breeze brings happiness to a worried mind with the beautiful notion that Durga Puja is coming. For the eastern region of India, the season of autumn literally means ‘Ma Aschen’( Mother Durga is coming).
Some of the old traditions that remain evergreen till the end of Durga Puja festivities are-
Mandatory Buying Of New Clothes
If we consider ourselves to be broke before every person we meet, the occasion of Durga Puja would not stop us from buying at least one garment as this ritual is followed religiously or significantly by all. While finding everyone around us talking gaily about the latest designs and the numbers of clothes they are going to buy for themselves or their families, the resist of splurging ourselves gets shaken and the strongest desire of owning some new clothes overcomes us and ultimately we go to satisfy ourselves with the ritual of possessing a new material from the market or ordering it via e-commerce platforms. Again, there are some of us who makes sure to save money to spend handsomely for buying some of our choicest clothes in the days leading to Durga Puja so that we can show off our unique styles during each of the holy days of the festival.
Need for Homeward Bound
Unless there are very important commitments due to which we cannot leave from our place of work, no person stops themselves from going back to their native areas to enjoy the festival of Durga Puja with their loved ones. While some use the Durga Puja holidays to go off with their families to explore a new destination as a mark of reunion, there are others who would make sure to go pandal hopping in every corner of the town / city / village with their friends or families to enjoy the festival to the fullest. With the arrival of the month of September, people who live away from their native places secretly bursts with a feeling of joy as the occasion of going home to enjoy a longest holy festival with their families draws near.
Listening to the tunes of Birendra Krishna Bhadra on Mahalaya
With the arrival of Mahalaya, a feeling arises that the official celebrations of the Durga Puja has begun. According to the scriptures, it is on Mahalaya that the ‘Pitru Paksha’, or the 16-day lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), ends and the beginning the ‘Devi Paksha’ (“the era of the goddess”) which marks the arrival of Goddess Durga, commences. In the 1930s, the All India Radio Calcutta (now Kolkata) started telecasting the renowned actor and narrator Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Mahisasur Mardini, a collection of Sanskrit shlokas and songs depicting how Goddess Durga was born and her epic battle with the demon Mahisasur. The age-old tradition of waking at 4 AM in the morning to listen to the Bhadra’s Mahisasur Mardini on the day of Mahalaya in the FM radio today is still followed in many Bengali homes with enthusiasm.
Making A Point Not to Miss the Pushpanjali
The offering of Pushpanjali during the three days of Durga Puja ie. Saptami, Ashtami and Navami is a special feature of the festivities and everyone ensures that no problems hamper them from skipping this noteworthy religious rite. If some urgency do crops up at the last moment, the hope for completing it as soon as possible rises and the rampant hurrying of the completion of task happens so that the participation in the special ritual of offering prayers to the Mother with fresh flowers and folded hands for three times occurs by the time the main worshipping rituals are over and the Bhog is served before Her. For giving Pushpanjali, a crowd of devotees line up before the idol of Ma Durga and fresh flowers are offered to them by the people who are in charge of the festivities. After everyone gets the flowers, the priest will start chanting the mantras of the Goddess and the devotees repeat it along with him. Once the mantras are over, the fresh flowers are offered to the feet of the Mother. This process is repeated three times.
Tasting of the Yummilicious Bhog
During the festive days of Durga Puja, no person thinks of cooking up meals for lunch time as tucking into the hearty delicious Bhog served at any pandal cannot be missed for the world. From the nutritious Khichiri and the assortment of veggies (labda) that fills up the whole Bhog platter and our stomach too to the classic milky Payesh at the end, the Bhog of every Puja pandal is the most talked about topic besides its decoration. There are many persons who would feel that their Durga Puja festival of the year has went by merrily after they have been extremely satisfied with the Bhog they had consumed. It is usual sight to see people hurrying and arguing to take a seat when the time of serving Bhog comes near because everyone has the urge to savour the Bhog in its freshest form.
Pandal Hopping Fun
The most fun and desirable part of Durga Puja celebrations is pandal hopping with friends or the family. With the occasion itself giving the golden chance to explore our native place thoroughly, people always make full use of it and most of them would try to visit every puja pandal in their town / city / village till late into the night. From examining the design of the pandal and the craftsmanship of the idol to the level of lighting and the size of the crowd, the topics of gossip that occurs after each pandal hopping session never seems to end.
The Need for Seeing the Dhunuchi Naach or the Evening Arati
One of the most entertaining and joyful tradition of Durga Puja is the event of the Dhunuchi Naach or the Evening Arati which is conducted by the priest and other performers who are obsessed with performing this beautiful dance. After the Dhunuchi -which is a clay stand- is filled with burning coal, coconut husk and incense, the priest and the dance performers starts swaying their bodies in ectasy in rhythm with the beats of the Dhak (drum) along with the stands. This performance which is hold in the early evening hours is a huge crowd puller and everybody watches this dance with concentration and mesmerization. With the loud beats of the Dhak and the energetic and merry dancing, a Durga Puja pandal literally seems to come alive with vibrance as everybody starts clapping their hands happily accompanied with shouts of encouragement to the dancers to do the dance in a more better way.