Durga Puja

“We can trace its origin to the remotest era of Aryan civilization. The Durga puja of the present day is an evolution of many mutations.” – this is from an article published in 1874 by Pratapchandra Ghosh in the Hindoo Patriot. Durga puja, the greatest celebration of Bengalis, is definitely evolving even more than what Mr Ghosh wrote about 150 years ago. His article went on describing – “…In the Veda it is called the Sarodiyoutsava or the Autumn Festival. Correctly speaking, it was a festival appertaining to the seasons. In the early days when the Aryans lived somewhere near the plateau, its vernal form the Vasanti puja was in vogue…. Durga Puja as a worship of Durga can be traced to the Puranas. The earliest instance of this worship is attributed to Rama Chandra. It is said that when he wanted to destroy the ten-headed demon Ravana, he performed Durga Puja with a view to acquire extraordinary energy. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, an entire volume is dedicated to the discussions of Durga and her other forms Shakti and Prakriti.…”

Durga Puja, the grandest  festival of the Bengalees, commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon Mahisasur. It marks as the universal resurgence of the power of creation over destruction. In the Indian lunar month of Aswin (typically September/October of English calendar), on the first nine nights of the waxing new moon, Indians celebrate the worship of the Great Goddess. Bengalis celebrate the last four days (the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th) with great enthusiasm, boundless fervor  and energy. Even though the preparation starts month long before the puja, typically these 4 days are marked as official Durga Puja holidays in West Bengal. The last day (the 10th) is known as Vijaya Dashami, also known as Dussera in some places. The nine nights of puja is also known as Navaraatri in several places within India.

Durga Puja was apparently observed as far back as 1610 by the Sabarno RoyChoudhuris of Barisha, in the southern suburb of Kolkata. One story goes that after Clive’s victory  at the battle of Plassey in 1757, he wanted to make a grand gesture of thanksgiving but the only church in Calcutta had been demolished. Clive consulted his supporter Nabakrishna Deb, who suggested that he makes offering at the feet of Durga at his house in Sobhabazar. The annual Durga Puja at 36 Navakrishna Street is still known as Company Puja (after the British East India Company).


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