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What if we tell you that the most popular, adored, charming and glittering festival of Bengal has some jaw-dropping facts associated with it? You wouldn’t believe us until you go through what we have in store for you about Durga Puja.
Goddess Durga is merely two weeks away from spreading jovialty on Earth. Kolkatans have already started with the preparations of welcoming Durga with mesmerizing pandals, new clothes, smiles and greetings. Despite our eagerness throughout the year, we do wonder how much do we really know about the most awaited festival of Bengal? Not one or two, but these 7 surprising facts about Durga Puja will resonate your mind with the upcoming festivities.
Kolkata, the former capital of India, is a city steeped in culture and tradition. The hub of Bengali culture, Kolkata has been host to the Durga Puja, the biggest festival in the region, for over a century. The five-day-long festival starts in the Bengali calendar month of Ashwin, which this year falls on September 18. The festival is an occasion for people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate the victory of good over evil, represented by the goddess Durga.
The Durga Puja we celebrate in October isn’t the actual Durga Puja. It’s known as akaal bodhan, an untimely sacrifice where Lord Rama prayed to the Goddess before battling Ravana. The actual Durga Puja is celebrated in March and is popularly known as Chaitra Basanti Puja, just before Ram Navami.
Durga Puja is all about peace, prosperity and happiness except one thing. Every year, the mode of transport chosen by the Goddess for coming to Earth indicates the fate of the year. The most blessed mode is on an elephant. Horse brings destruction to crops, the boat brings floods and the palanquin shakes the Earth. Believe it or not, the consequences come true to a large extent.
The clay or punya mati is collected from the banks of the Hooghly river but little did you know that the priest who performs the first ritual must venture into forbidden areas. The first soil must be collected from the house of a vaishya and it is the priest who must beg for it. The reason is the Goddess doesn’t discriminate between her children and therefore the word sarbojanin applies. The soil from the brothel is considered to be highly pure.
We all know that it Mahalaya that marks the beginning of Durga Puja! Wrong! The ritual of chakshu daan or giving the Mother her eye marks the beginning of Durga Puja. It is an ancient ritual that the priest who does the chakshu daan must impart the Goddess her third-eye in absolute darkness. Never the position or the drawing has gone wrong, ever.
Sholaer shaaj was completely traditional and done with Indian cork. However, the wealthy Zamindar families came up front and decided to cover the Goddess in silver foils. The daaker shaaj included posts imported from Germany for that very reason and hence, the new style of adorning Durga came into existence.
It is a fair misconception that the first Durga Puja was celebrated in Kolkata. On the contrary, it was the royal family of Malda, Dinajpur who started the tradition of worshipping the holy mother around 16th-century. The first baroyari puja or twelve friends puja was conceptualized in Hooghly around 1790. The Durga Puja mania hit in Kolkata round 1909.
Who comes along with Goddess Durga? You can easily spot Ganesha, Karthik, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Shiva at the rear. However, there is another member who is present. The kola bou or banana wife is actually the wife of Lord Ganesha, Riddhi-Siddhi. She is adorned as the banana stem, wrapped in clothes, bathed and even worshipped.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is celebrated for five days each year. These five days are called Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Maha Dashami. It’s a festival to pay homage to the victory of good over evil, lights over darkness. It’s a festival to seek blessings from Goddess Durga who killed Mahisasur, the demon king and protects the earth from him. Durga Puja starts from Mahalaya while the Navratri starts in other states in India. The last day of this annual festival is Dashami, which is known as Dussehra in other states apart from West Bengal. Dussehra is celebrated to pay homage to the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Apart from West Bengal, Durga Puja is also celebrated in neighbouring states like Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura and Assam. Moreover, it is also celebrated in some foreign countries by the Bengali communities living there.