On Pratipada (First lunar day of bright half of Ashvin), an earthen pitch filled with water and its mouth covered with green leaves and an earthen lid, is installed with invocation of Ganesha, the God of learning and wisdom, and then Durga is invoked and ritually worshiped with durva grass, flowers, leaves, lamps, incense, new grain, raiment, etc. Barley are also sprouted and grown in a pot on this occasion, and the same are worn in caps and on ears on the final day. Unmarried girls below the age of ten are also worshiped and given gifts during these nine days. The aspirants sleep on the ground and keep strict fast all these days. A clarified butter lamp is always burning before the installed pitcher during the celebration, and daily Durga-saptashti, Devi Bhagvat Purana and Devi Mahatmya section of the Markandeya Purana are read and recited.
In Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated with great excitement and festivity and huge puja pavillions, with ten-armed Durga, are set up. Durga, the beautiful, but fierce goddess rides her mount of the lion, killing the demon Mahishasura. In each of her ten hands she holds one of the god’s special weapons like Vishnu’s discus, Shiva’s trident, Varuna’s conch shell, Agni’s flaming dart, Vayu’s bow, Surya’s quiver, Indra’s thunderbolt, Kuber’s club, a garland of snakes from Shesha, and as a charger a lion from the Himalayas. A fierce battle raged between Durga and Mahishasura, but finally she killed him with a spear.
Durga Puja surpasses all other festivals in Bengal in its popularity and mass appeal. During the celebration music, dance, drama and poetry are performed before the enthralled audiences. The earthen images of goddess Durga are taken on the final day in triumphal processions from all corners of the coverage on the river where they are ceremonially immersed. Durga puja is more than a ritual as it invests the lives of every one, and produces a feverish literary and artistic activity. Durga is supposed to visit her parents Himavan and mother Mena during these days only in the year. The final day marks the end of this brief visit, when she leaves for Mount Kailash, the abode of her lord and husband Shiva. Bengali ladies gives an emotion-charged and affectionate send off to Durga, and the ceremony is characterized with a daughter’s departure to her husband’s house.
Navratri / Durga Puja Festival Dates:
2019: Chaitra Navratri – 6 April to 14 April, Sharad Navratri: 29 September to 7 October
2020: Chaitra Navratri – 25 March to 3 April, Sharad Navratri: 17 October to 25 October