Depiction of Durga at Maddox Square, Kolkata
|Also called||Akalbodhan, Vijaya Dashami, Dashain, and Dussehra|
|2009 date||26–29 September|
Durga Puja (Bengali: , ‘Worship of Durga’), also referred to as Hiia Durgotsab (Bengali: , ‘Festival of Durga’), is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi , Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dashami. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar and the fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Debi Pokkho (Bengali: , ‘Fortnight of the Goddess’). Debi Pokkho is preceded by Mahalaya (Bengali: ), the last day of the previous fortnight Pitri Pokkho (Bengali: , ‘Fortnight of the Forefathers’), and is ended on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja (Bengali: , ‘Worship of Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori Full Moon Night’).
Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura where it is a five-day annual holiday and in Bangladesh where it is a major Bengali festival (with the last day being a national holiday). Not only it is the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout the State, but it is also the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali society. Apart from eastern India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal. Nowadays, many diaspora Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.
The prominence of Durga Puja increased gradually during the British Raj in Bengal. After the Hindu reformists resemble Durga with India, she had become an icon for the Indian independence movement. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the tradition of Baroyari or Community Puja was popularised due to this. After independence, Durga Puja became one of the largest celebrated festivals in the whole world.
Durga Puja includes the worships of Shiva, Lakshmi, Ganesha, Saraswati and Kartikeya. Modern traditions have come to include the display of decorated pandals and artistically depicted idols of Durga, exchange of Bijoya Greetings and publication of Puja Annuals.
In Bengal, Durga Puja is also called Akalbodhan (Bengali: , 'untimely awakening of Durga'), Sharadiya Puja (Bengali: , ‘autumnal worship’), Sharodotsab (Bengali: , ‘festival of autumn’), Maha Puja (Bengali: , ‘grand puja’), Maayer Pujo (Bengali: , ‘worship of the Mother) or merely as Puja or Pujo. In East Bengal (Bangladesh), Durga Puja used to be celebrated as Bhagabati Puja. It is also called Durga Puja in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.
Puja is called Navaratri Puja in Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala and Maharashtra, Kullu Dussehra in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Mysore Dussehra in Mysore, Karnataka and Bommai Kolu in Tamil Nadu and Bommala koluvu in Andhra Pradesh.
The worship of Durga in the autumn ( Shôrot) is the year's largest Hindu festival of Bengal. Durga Puja is also celebrated in Nepal and Bhutan according to local traditions and variations. Puja means "worship," and Durga's Puja is celebrated from the sixth to tenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Ashwin (Bengali: Ashshin), which is the sixth month in the Bengali calendar. Occasionally however, due to shifts in the lunar cycle relative to the solar months, it may also be held in the following month, Kartika (Bengali: Kartik). In the Gregorian calendar, these dates correspond to the months of September and October.
In the Krittibas Ramayana, Rama invokes the goddess Durga in his battle against Ravana. Although she was traditionally worshipped in the spring, due to contingencies of battle, Rama had to invoke her in the autumn akaal bodhan. Today it is this Rama's date for the puja that has gained ascendancy, although the spring puja, known as Basanti Puja [One of the oldest 'sabeki' Basanti Puja is held every year at spring in Barddhaman Pal Bari], is also present in the Hindu almanac. Since the season of the puja is Bengali: Shôrot, autumn, it is also known as Bengali: Shôrodia.
The pujas are held over a ten-day period, which is traditionally viewed as the coming of the married daughter, Durga, to her father, Himalaya's home. It is the most important festival in Bengal, and Bengalis celebrate with new clothes and other gifts, which are worn on the evenings when the family goes out to see the 'pandals' (temporary structures set up to venerate the goddess). Although it is a Hindu festival, religion takes a back seat on these five days: Durga Puja in Bengal is a carnival, where people from all backgrounds, regardless of their religious beliefs, participate and enjoy themselves to the hilt.
In Calcutta alone more than two thousand pandals are set up, all clamouring for the admiration and praise of the populace. The city is adorned with lights. People from all over the country visit the city at this time, and every night is one mad carnival where thousands of people go 'pandal-hopping' with their friends and family. Traffic comes to a standstill, and indeed, most people abandon their vehicles to travel by foot after a point. A special task force is deployed to control law and order. Durga Puja in Calcutta is often referred to as the Rio Carnival of the Eastern Hemisphere.
of puja pandals are set up every year in the Siliguri Mahakuma area. Many attractive colourful pandal, glorious "Protima", and colorful lighting create joy for visitors. During the puja period, visitors come here from all over the world. The city is adorned with lights. Every day visitors come out on the roads with their family and friends. All pandals are decorated with lights and sounds. Saktigarh, Hakimpara, Rathkhola, Champashari, NJP Colony, Saktigarh Utjal Sangha are famous and the oldest durga puja from this area. They enjoy the festival through the night. The Best & one of the Oldest in Siliguri is of Swastika Yubak Sangha, Its one of the most crowd gathering puja of the region.The Puja Committee just completed its 50th year of celebrations
Hundreds of puja pandals are set up every year in the Berhampore, Cossimbazar, Khagra, Madhupur, Gorabazaar area. All pandal are decorated with lights and sounds. Swarnamoyee, Baganpara, Bishtupur, Ranibagan, Kadai, Swargadham, Ajana Sangha, Cossimbazar Choto Rajbari are famous and the oldest durga puja from this area. Cossimbazars Puja is the oldest puja which is about 300 years old. All visitors are coming through different part of Murshidabad  district. Specially the Astami and Nabami nights are filled with crowd from different part of the district. Visitors come out on the roads with their family and friends. They enjoy the festival through the night. Also the Bisorjon (immersion of idol) to Bhagarathi River is a beautiful scene. A huge number of visitors gather on the Bhagirathi Ghat to visit the last journey of Durga Pratima. Generally the pandals and idols of Madhupur area win the prizes. Lighting is done to a great extent to increase the beauty of the Puja nights. The best puja is in North Kolkata- Like Baghbazar Sarbojonin, Kumartuli, Ahiritola, Md. Ali Park, College Square etc. These pujas are also the oldest puja in Kolkata.
The actual worship of the Goddess Durga as stipulated by the Hindu scriptures falls in the month of Chaitra, which roughly overlaps with March or April. This ceremony is however not observed by many and is restricted to a handful in the state of West Bengal.
The more popular form, which is also known as Sharadiya (Autumnal) Durga Puja, is celebrated later in the year with the dates falling either in September or October. Since the Goddess is invoked at the wrong time, it is called "Akaal Bodhon" in Bengali.
The first such Puja was organised by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of the Shobhabazar Rajbari of Calcutta in honour of Lord Clive in the year 1757. The puja was organised because Clive wished to pay thanks for his victory in the Battle of Plassey. He was unable to do so in a Church because the only church in Calcutta at that time was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daulah. Indeed many wealthy mercantile and Zamindar families in Bengal made British Officers of the East India Company guests of honour in the Pujas. The hosts vied with one another in arranging the most sumptuous fares, decorations and entertainment for their guests. This was deemed necessary since the Company was in charge of a large part of India including Bengal after the battles of Plassey and Buxar.
A considerable literature exists around Durga in the Bengali language and its early forms, including avnirnaya (11th century), Durgabhaktitarangini by Vidyapati (14th century), etc. Durga Puja was popular in Bengal in the medieval period, and records exist of it being held in the courts of Rajshahi (16th century) and Nadia district (18th century). It was during the 18th century, however, that the worship of Durga became popular among the landed elite of Bengal, Zamindars. Prominent Pujas were conducted by the landed zamindars and jagirdars, enriched by British rule, including Raja Nabakrishna Deb, of Shobhabajar, who initiated an elaborate Puja at his residence. Many of these old pujas exist to this day. Interestingly the oldest such Puja to be conducted at the same venue is in Rameswarpur, Orissa, where it continues for the last four centuries since the Ghosh Mahashays from Kotarang near Howrah migrated as a part of Todarmal's contingent during Akbar's rule. Today, the culture of Durga Puja has shifted from the princely houses to Sarbojanin (literally, "involving all") forms. The first such puja was held Guptipara - it was called barowari (baro meaning twelve and yar meaning friends)
Durga puja mood starts off with the Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour radio programme that has been popular with the community since the 1950s. While earlier it used to be conducted live, later a recorded version began to be broadcast. Bengalis traditionally wake up at 4 in the morning on Mahalaya day to listen to the enchanting voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns from the scriptures from the Devi Mahatmyam or Chandi. , During the week of Durga Puja, in the entire state of West Bengal as well as in large enclaves of Bengalis everywhere, life comes to a complete standstill. In playgrounds, traffic circles, ponds—wherever space may be available—elaborate structures called pandals 'are set up, many with nearly a year's worth of planning behind them. The word pandal means a temporary structure, made of bamboo and cloth, which is used as a temporary temple for the purpose of the puja. While some of the pandals are simple structures, others are often elaborate works of art with themes that rely heavily on history, current affairs and sometimes pure imagination.
Somewhere inside these complex edifices is a stage on which Durga reigns, standing on her lion mount, wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. This is the religious center of the festivities, and the crowds gather to offer flower worship or pushpanjali on the mornings, of the sixth to ninth days of the waxing moon fortnight known as Devi Pakshya (lit. Devi = goddess; Pakshya = period; Devi Pakshya meaning the period of the goddess). Ritual drummers – dhakis, carrying large leather-strung dhak –– show off their skills during ritual dance worships called aarati. On the tenth day, Durga the mother returns to her husband, Shiva, ritualised through her immersion into the waters –– Bishorjon also known as Bhaashan and Niranjan
Today's Puja, however, goes far beyond religion. In fact, visiting the pandals recent years, one can only say that Durgapuja is the largest outdoor art festival on earth. In the 1990s, a preponderance of architectural models came up on the pandal exteriors, but today the art motif extends to elaborate interiors, executed by trained artists, with consistent stylistic elements, carefully executed and bearing the name of the artist.
The sculpture of the idol itself has evolved. The worship always depicts Durga with her four children, and occasionally two attendant deities and some banana-tree figures. In the olden days, all five idols would be depicted in a single frame, traditionally called pata. Since the 1980s however, the trend is to depict each idol separately.
At the end of six days, the idol is taken for immersion in a procession amid loud chants of 'Bolo Durga mai-ki jai' (glory be to Mother Durga') and 'aashchhe bochhor abar hobe' ('it will happen again next year') and drumbeats to the river or other water body. It is cast in the waters symbolic of the departure of the deity to her home with her husband in the Himalayas. After this, in a tradition called Vijaya Dashami, families visit each other and sweetmeats are offered to visitors (Dashami is literally "tenth day" and Vijay is "victory").
Durga Puja is also a festivity of Good (Ma Durga) winning over the evil (Maheshasoora the demon). It is a worship of power of Good which always wins over the bad.
Initially the Puja was organised by affluent families since they had the money to organize the festival. During the late 19th and early 20th century, a burgeoning middle class, primarily in Calcutta, wished to observe the Puja. They created the community or Sarbojanin Pujas.
These Pujas are organized by a committee which represents a locality or neighbourhood. They collect funds called "chaanda" through door-to-door subscriptions, lotteries, concerts etc. These funds are pooled and used for the expenses of pandal construction, idol construction, ceremonies etc. The balance of the fund is generally donated to a charitable cause, as decided by the committee. Corporate sponsorships of the Pujas have gained momentum since the late 1990s. Major Pujas in Calcutta and in major metro areas such as Delhi and Chennai now derive almost all of their funds from corporate sponsorships. Community fund drives have become a formality.
Despite the resources used to organise a Puja, entry of visitors into the Pandal is generally free. Pujas in Calcutta and elsewhere experiment with innovative concepts every year. Communities have created prizes for Best Pandal, Best Puja, and other categories.
The entire process of creation of the idols from the collection of clay to the ornamentation is a holy process, supervised by rites and other rituals. On the Hindu date of Akshaya Tritiya when the Ratha Yatra is held, clay for the idols is collected from the banks of a river, preferably the Ganges. After the required rites, the clay is transported from which the idols are fashioned. An important event is 'Chakkhu Daan', literally donation of the eyes. Starting with Devi Durga, the eyes of the idols are painted on Mahalaya or the first day of the Pujas. Before painting on the eyes, the artisans fast for a day and eat only vegetarian food.
Many Pujas in and around Calcutta buy their idols from Kumartuli (also Kumortuli), an artisans' town in north Calcutta. In 1610, the first Durga puja in Kolkata was supposedly celebrated by the Roychowdhuri family of Barisha. Though this was a private affair, community or ‘Baroyari’ Durga puja was started in Guptipara, in Hooghly by 12 young men when they were barred from participating in a family Durga puja in 1761. They formed a committee which accepted subscriptions for organising the puja. Since then, community pujas in Bengal came to be known as ‘Baroyari – ‘baro’ meaning 12 and ‘yar’ meaning friends.In Kolkata, the first ‘Baroyari’ Durga Puja was organized in 1910 by the ‘SanatanDharmotsahini Sabha’ at Balaram Bosu Ghat Road, Bhawanipur. At the same time, similar Baroyari Pujas were held at Ramdhan Mitra Lane and Sikdar Bagan. The Indian freedom struggle also had an influence on Durga puja in Kolkata. In 1926, Atindranath Bose initiated the first ‘Sarbojanin’ Durga puja in which anybody, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, could participate in the festivities. This was consciously done to instill a feeling of unity.
In Delhi there are approximately 400 registered pujas, which are celebrated with great fanfare by Bengalis settled in Delhi. Unlike most of the Durga Pujas in Kolkata, the atmosphere in Durga Pujas celebrated across Delhi, in general, are less commercial and they have been able to maintain that peculiar atmosphere of Durga Puja. The oldest Durga Puja in Delhi is organised by Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, Kashmere Gate, Delhi (popularly known as Kashmere Gate Puja OR Heritage Durga Puja) since 1910. Apart from Kashmere Gate Puja, Durga Pujas celebrated at Paschim Delhi Kalibari-'B' Block Janak Puri,Vikas Puri,Timar Pur, New Delhi Kali Bari,Maatri Mandir safdurjung enclave, Karol Bagh Bangiya Sansad, Minto Road, C R Park Shiv Mandir, C R Park Mela Ground, Hauz Khas, Nivedita Enclave (2009-Times Second Best Pandal winner, Bengal Club's competition winner - Best Puja 2009), Antaranga(Mayur Vihar Phase-1 Extn.), Milani (Mayur Vihar Phase-1), Mayur Vihar Kalibari,Paschim Vihar Bengal Association Puja (last year's best puja pratima winner) Indraprastha Extension Pujas include: IP Puja Samiti, Purbachal Puja Samiti (smal but very cosy and family atmosphere), Purbachal Puja Samiti are worth visiting (to name a few). Newer residential areas like Dwarka also host some of the worth visiting Durga Pujas; Aikotaan Kalibari O Sewa Samiti's (oldest Sarbajanin) Durga Puja celebrations in Sector-4 in Dwarka sub-city is known for its homely environment, bonhomie and Pratima in spite of being one of the big ones.
Durga Puja is one of the major, rather the most awaited festival of this City. Hundreds of pandals are setup with carnivals. The city witnesses a huge surge in visitors during these four days starting from Maha Saptami. More than 500 exhibits, known as pandals, decorated with lights, sculpturing and other art forms come up across the city. The crowd spills onto the streets during the evenings and throng the food stalls and processions. Competitions are held for giving away prizes to the best pandal,apart from puja pandals musical nights are also the point attaraction at Patna during Durga Puja Festival etc. Patna hosts one of the best Puja Pandals in Patna they are Bengali Akhara,Dak Bunglow Chauraha Puja, Khazanchi road Puja Samiti.
Ancient Places of Patna Durga Puja includes Bari and Chhoti PatanDevi Maa Shitla Mandir Agamkuan etc.
According to historian Late Benudhar Sarma, the present form of worship of Durga with earthen idol in Assam was started during the reign of Ahom King Susenghphaa or Pratap Singha. The King heard about the festivity, the pomp and grandeur with which the King Naranarayan of Koch Bihar celebrated Durga Puja from one Sondar Gohain, who was under captivity of the Koch raja. King Pratap Singha sent artisans to Koch Bihar to learn the art of idol making. The King organised the first such Durga Puja celebration in Bhatiapara near Sibsagar. This was the first time Durga Puja with earthen idols in Assam was held for the masses, in addition to the worship in Durga temples like Kamakhya, Digheswari Temple, Maha Bhairabi Temple, Ugrotara, Tamreswari Mandir, etc. Subsequently, similar Pujas were celebrated by other Kings and nobles. Now a days the Durga Puja is mostly a community festival celebrated in all the cities, towns, villages of Assam with great festivity and religious fervour for five days.
Durga Puja is one of the major, rather the most awaited festival of this Steel City. Hundreds of pandals are setup with carnivals. The festival mood starts from Mahalaya, the first day of the festival but a huge surge in visitors is witnessed during the last four days starting from Maha Saptami (7th Day). More than 300 exhibits, known as pandals, decorated with lights, sculpturing and other art forms come up across the city. The crowd spills onto the streets almost the whole day of all the 4 days and throng the food stalls and processions. Competitions are held for giving away prizes to the best pandal, etc. Being a true cosmopolitan city, this city celebrates this festival with mood just next to the origin city of this mega festival, Kolkata, in some aspects even more than that.
In Maharashtra, Durga Puja is an enjoyable occasion. Puja is performed each day and devotees do not remove the flower garland that is put each day on the idol or image of the deity. After nine days, all nine garlands are removed together. Young girls who have not attained maturity are invited to eat, play games, dance and sing. An elephant is drawn with rangoli, and the girls play guessing games. Then they are fed a meal of their choice.
People of Punjab strictly observe Navaratri. Some Punjabis have only milk for seven days before breaking the fast on ashtami or navami. They worship Durga Ma and do the aarti at home. Some of them have fruit or a complete meal only once a day. Intoxicating drinks or meat, and other forms of entertainment are completely avoided. At the end of the fast, devotees feed beggars or worship little girls who spell the Shakti of the Mother Goddess.
Various accounts exist which ascribe the origin of Durga Puja in the state of Orissa. All historical accounts agree on the influence from other regions although some mythological accounts describe an independent origin.
Durga Puja is a festival, which is observed for 10 days. Orissa, the land of Lord Jagannath,the land of powerful Hindu Kingdom, the land of Raja & Maharaja's, the royals of Orissa patronage anuual Sharodiyo Utsav before the state abolition with Republic of India. The Durga Puja is celebrated in two different ways in Orissa. In Shakti peethas (temples of goddess) the Durga Puja is observed with proper rituals for 10 to 16 days known as Shodasa Upachara. Goddess Durga is also worshiped by devotees in different pandals in form deities across the state. The pandals are decorated with beautiful decoratives.
According to Markandeya Purana the King of Chedi dynasty Suratha started rituals of Durga Puja during 300B.C.The Chedi dynasty belongs to Kalinga(modern Orissa). Durga Puia has different names in different Puranas and Sastras. In Devi Purana & Kalika Purana it is named as Vijaya Dashami. It is named as Mahaparbana in Devi Mahatmya and Duseehera in Markandeya Purana.
The present form of worship of Durga with earthen idol in Orissa was started during the reign of Ganga King Chodaganga Dev in the 11th century at Puri. The earthen idol of Mahishamardini Durga is known as Gosani and the Dussehra fesival is known as Gosani Yatra. It is noteworthy that the co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga with Madhava (Lord Jagannath) is prevalent from 11th century,Ganga period, in Puri.
Before the concept of Sarbojonin Durga Puja started, it was being conducted by princely houses and the first such Puja being conducted anywhere in the world at the same venue and continuing till date is in Orissa. It is at Rameswarpur in Bhadrak district of the state, where it was started about four centuries ago by the Mahashay family who migrated in from Kotarang near Howrah as a part of Todarmal's famous survey of India during Emperor Akbar's rule.
It is said that in the year 1512 to 1517 Chaitanya Deva had come to Cuttack, the capital of Gajapati empire of Orissa and the then emperor of Orissa Gajapati Pratap Rudra Dev received him at Gadagadia Ghata situated near the river bank of Mahanadi very close to the kings Palace popularly known as Barabati fort. In that year Sri Chatanya Deva started Durga puja at Binod Bihari temple presently known as Balu Bazar. Further it is also believed that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose birth placed is Cuttack had organized Durga puja with great pomp and show to organize youngsters in British India exactly like Lokamanya Balagangadar Tilak had done it at Maharastra(the Ganesh Utsav).
The first recorded Sarbojonin Durga Puja in the state is said to have been in the year 1832 in the Kazibajaar area of Cuttack
A pandal in Orissa is called "Medho". For many years, the most expensive installation was the ChaandiMerrha (Chaandi means Silver) of Choudhuri Bajaar area of Cuttack. The ornamentation was done entirely in silver. A substantial increase in funding has led to the gold plating of the ornamentation. Now it is known as "Suna Medho" (Suna means Gold). A few other Pujas in Cuttack now have silver ornaments, too.
The Durga Puja festivities are also prominent in Maa Katak Chandi Temple. Maa Cuttack Chandi is the presiding deity of Cuttack. The goddess popularly called as Maa Katak Chandi, sits and rules on the heart of the ancient city. She is worshiped as Bhubaneswari. Maa Chandi is worshipped in various incarnations of Durga during the puja. In Cuttack, people strongly believe Maa Katak Chandi as 'The Living Goddess'.
The largest Pujas are held in Bhubaneswar. Shaheed Nagar, Nayapalli and Rasulgarh spend the most on the idols, decorations, lighting, and other elements.
One reason for the wide acceptance of Durga Puja is the importance of Maa Tarini, who is considered one of the embodiments of Shakti in Oriya culture. In addition, the state is close to Bengal and the peoples share a common socio-cultural history spanning millennia. Orissa is home to many important shrines dedicated to the Goddess; great festivities are organised there on Durga and Kali Puja.
It is thus one of the prime festivals of Orissa as well. People in Orissa celebrate it on a large scale. The Goddess Durga is among the sacred goddesses of Orissa. The celebrations are quite similar to the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
Durga Puja is celebrated in a grand way in this state. In Mysore, Dussehra is easily the most popular festival. Elephants are decked up with robes and jewellery and taken in processions through the streets of the city. In fact, many people visit Mysore from all over the country to watch this colorful event. There is also a floating festival in the temple tank at the foot of Chamundi Hill and a procession of chariots around the temple at the top.
Mysore is named after Mahishasur, the very demon which was slain by the Goddess. The original Indian name was Mahishur. There are temples dedicated to the demon king and even a gigantic statue of the demon in the city.
Navaratri is devoted to Amba mataji. In some homes, images of mataji are worshiped in accordance with accepted practice. This is also true of the temples, which usually have a constant stream of visitors from morning to night. The most common form of public celebration is the performance of garba and dandia-ras/ras-garba (a form of garba with sticks), Gujarat's popular folk-dance, late throughout the nights of these nine days in public squares, open grounds and streets.
In Kerala, Durga Puja signifies the beginning of formal education for every child aged 3–5 years. While puja goes on in the temple for all ten days, it is the concluding three days which are most important. Ashtami is the day of Ayudya Puja, when all the tools at home are worshipped. Custom dictates that no tools be used on this day. On navami day, Goddess Saraswati is honored by worshipping the books and records at home.
Thousands throng the Saraswati temple at Kottayam during this period to take a dip in the mysterious holy pond, whose source is yet unknown. Large gatherings are also seen at the famous temples at Thekkegram (Palghat), in which there are no idols, only huge mirrors. A devotee finds himself bowing before his own reflection, which symbolizes that God is within us.
Thrikkavu Temple, a famous Durga Devi Temple at Ponnani, Malapuram District of Kerala, is also famous for Navaratri festival and vidyarambham (beginning of formal education). Thousands of children throng this temple on vijaya desami day for vidyarambham.
Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir celebrate their festivals with pomp and show. These days, festivities are more subdued. The favorite deities of Kashmir are Lord Shiva and Serawali Ma Durga, the one who rides the tiger. Pundits and Muslims alike vouch that Navratri is important. Here each Hindu household does the puja at home. All the adult members of the household fast on water. In the evenings, fruit may be taken. As elsewhere, Kashmiris grow barley in earthen pots. They believe that if the growth in this pot is good, there is prosperity all year. The most important ritual for Kashmiri Pandits is to visit the temple of guardian goddess Kheer Bhawani on all nine days. On the last day of Navratri, an aarti is held at the temple, after which people break their fast. On Dussehra day, Ravana's effigy is burnt.
Durga Puja is celebrated by the Indian diaspora residing in different parts of the world. It is also celebrated in regions and by people culturally and historically distinct from India.
In terms of population, Bangladesh is the third largest Hindu state in the world after India and Nepal. Although the percentage of Hindu people in Bangladesh is very low, Durga Puja along with other Pujas are celebrated throughout Bangladesh by the Hindu community of the country. Durga Puja witnesses widespread celebrations through-out the country and includes the participation of Muslim, Buddhist and Christian families which are be bonded by a common Bengali culture.
Thousands of Puja Mandaps are set up across the country, including hundreds in the capital city Dhaka. In rural and district areas, puja celebrations are often seen to involve entire communities, regardless of religion. The last day of the festival or Bijoya Dashami is a national holiday in Bangladesh. Offices and educational institutions remain closed on the day while the government holds several national celebrations, including the President's National Reception, held in the Durbar Hall of the Bangabhaban, the official residence of the President of Bangladesh.
Puja in Mymensingh
Dussehra in Nepal is called Dashain. As it is chiefly a Hindu nation, the pattern and dates of the festivals coincide with those of India. The King of Nepal plays a key role in the festivities, particularly during Saptami or the Seventh day of the pujas. Despite the overthrow of monarchy in Nepal, the Royal Family still has a significant cultural role in the nation.
Durga Puja is organised by communities comprising of Indians in the US, Europe and Australia. Although pandals are not constructed, the idols are flown in from Kumartuli in Bengal. The desire by the diaspora peoples to keep in touch with their cultural ties has led to a boom in religious tourism, as well as learning from priests or purohits versed in the rites. Also recently, the immersion of the Durga idol has been allowed in the Thames river for the festival which is held in London. In the United States the pujas are often hosted during weekends with very few exceptions. The pujas weekends are time for Bengal friends and family to gather together to spend the weekend savoring bengali culture. Cultural programs are helds; there is food; stalls selling ethnic clothes/jewellery/books/music/dvds - there is a general atmosphere of festivity.
In Europe, Germany celebrates Durga Puja along with bhog distribution and anjali in Berlin (over 40 years old), in Frankfurt(Main), Köln (Cologn).
Pandals and idols inspired by a particular theme have been the hallmark of many community or Sarbajanin Pujas in Calcutta since the 1990s. Puja committees decide on a particular theme, whose elements are incorporated into the pandal and the idols. Popular themes include ancient civilizations like the Egyptians or Incas. Contemporary subjects like the RMS Titanic and Harry Potter have also been the subject in some pandals.
The design and decoration is usually done by art and architecture students based in the city. The budget required for such theme-based pujas is often higher than traditional pujas. They attract crowds and are well-received. Inspired by Calcutta, theme-based pandals are becoming popular in cities in neighbouring states, particularly Orissa (see above). Experimentation with the idols does not happen much outside Calcutta.
Rapid growth of competitiveness in theme pandals, and also rapid growth of massive billboards that come up at strategic junctions, prior to Puja and allied commercial activities, has also created a cultural backlash from city's traditional Puja pandals, which now claim, "We do not do theme puja, we do Durga puja,”, according to one hoarding put up in Salt Lake, Kolkata .
"Commercialisation of Hindu festivals like Durga Puja in the last quarter of 20th century have become a major environmental concern as devout Hindus want bigger and brighter idols and are no longer happy with the ones made from eco-friendly materials," said Ramapati Kumar, a toxics campaigner for Greenpeace. Environmentalists say the idols are often made from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, cement and plaster of Paris, and are painted using toxic dyes.
Environmentalists state that such materials do not dissolve easily. They reduce the oxygen level in the water, resulting in the death of fish and other aquatic organisms. The paints used contain heavy metals such as mercury, chromium and lead which are carcinogenic. These can adversely affect drinking water.
Over the years, white plumes attached to the drums of a Dhaki, traditional drummer have come to symbolize Durga puja, and at least four birds have to be killed to obtain a bunch of 30-40 feathers needed to decorate a single dhak (drum), thus an estimated 4,000 open-bill storks and egrets are killed across Midnapore, Murshidabad and Malda region alone, for their white feathers, every year.
Durga Puja is one of the most important events in the Bengali society's calendar. Many Bengali films, albums and books are released to coincide with the Puja. The West Bengal government gives a fortnight of holidays for the Pujas. This time is used in various ways. Many people travel in India or abroad. Gatherings of friends called "Aadda" in Bengali is common in many homes and restaurants. A lot of shopping is done, and retailers cash in on this opportunity with special offers.
Visiting pandals with friends and family, talking and sampling the food sold near them is known as pandal hopping. Young people embrace this activity. TV and radio channels telecast Puja celebrations. Many Bengali channels devote whole days to the Pujas.
Bengali and Oriya weekly magazines bring out special issues for the Puja known as "Pujabarshiki" or "Sharadiya Sankhya". These contain the works of many writers both established and upcoming and are thus much bigger than the regular issues. Some notable examples are Anandamela and Shuktara.