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My Puja wish: The next generation must experience the festive bonhomie and learn from it

Monali Bordoloi Monali Bordoloi 6 Mins Read

Monali Bordoloi Monali Bordoloi

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Don't we all wish that our children grow up independent and strong-willed, ready to take on the world? This Durga Puja, let’s regale our children with inspiring stories about Devi Durga and how she single-handedly defeated dreaded demons, and yet as a mother, she takes care of her children

My Puja wish: The next generation must experience the festive bonhomie and learn from it

Growing up, the flowering of the fragrant night jasmine (shiuli) flowers and a nip in the air signalled the arrival of Durga Puja for us.

Yes, it is that time of the year again, when we are gearing up to celebrate the Durga Puja. It brings back memories of getting new dresses to be worn each day of the Puja, while reserving the best one for Ashtami (the eighth day of the Puja). On the three main Puja days – Saptami, Ashtami and Navami – we used to get up early and collect shiuli flowers to offer to Maa, as we call Devi Durga, later in the day.

With empty stomachs, we used to go to the pandals along with neighborhood kids and parents to offer ‘pushpanjali’ to Maa at the scheduled hour. Bathed and dressed in new clothes, we used to gather in front of the goddess, (sometimes, fighting to get the best spots) with a fistful of flowers and bilva leaves.

A pandal in Cuttack, Odisha

As kids, we used to visit the pandals thrice –in the morning to offer flowers, at lunch time for the community feast of khichiri and labra (mixed veg) and the last in the evening. As the day ended, we were ready to go pandal-hopping in our best attire. We would wait for the whole year to buy toys during Puja. The battery-operated trains, cheap electronic watches and dolls we collected from the numerous melas in front of each pandal were our prized possessions for the rest of the yearThings have changed, more so after the pandemic when there are standard operating procedures to be followed while entering a Puja mandap.

How I wish our next generation too could feel the rush of adrenaline as Puja approaches! Still, I am hoping that my daughter experiences the traditions, the bonhomie and the general feeling of happiness that are prevalent during Durga Puja. Knowing about our rich cultural traditions would also help them get a deeper and practical insight into our culture. Don’t you think children could learn much more from a round of pandal-hopping with parents than reading about the culture of India from a textbook?

Held during the Hindu month of Ashvina (September-October), traditionally Durga Puja was observed for 10 days. Now, worshipping goddess Durga is mostly confined to five days. What is so special about Durga Puja, that it always brings in a lot of joy and enthusiasm to the people who celebrate it?

One of the fiercest yet adorable of Hindu deities, Goddess Durga is worshiped as Durga Maa in eastern states, while rest of India worships her in various forms during Navratri.

Durga Puja is celebrated widely in Bengal, Odisha, Assam and other eastern states. Not to forget that it is also observed wholeheartedly by communities living in different parts of the country and abroad.

For many like us, Durga Puja starts on Mahalaya, the day that marks the ending of Pitri Paksha and the starting of Devi Paksha, i.e., when Durga Maa comes to Earth from her heavenly abode for the annual 10-day sojourn.

Here are some of the significant days and rituals during Durga Puja which you can share with your child. Stories of Durga Maa’s victories are ideal for those bedtime chats as you tuck in your child.

  • Addressed as Maa Durga, Jagdamba, Mahishasura Mardini or simply Maa by her devotees, Durga is the embodiment of all things powerful and courageous. However, she also has a softer side and is known for her love and care for her children and devotees. Just like we aim to become in real life, isn't it?
  • Durga Puja is for all sections of the society that is why it is also called ‘sarbajanin’ -- which means for everyone.
  • As Pujas are celebrated in pandals built in the neighborhood lanes, people living nearby come together to contribute and worship Maa for five days.
  • During Durga Puja, the Devi is worshiped in her demon-slaying pose to symbolize destroyer of evil and victory of the righteous.
  • Animals and birds have a lot of significance in Durga Puja as they are the divine mounts of the Goddess and her children. Lion is the mount of Durga, while Kartikeya has a peacock. Lakshmi comes on her white owl and a rat is the divine mount of the adorable Ganesha. Saraswati, meanwhile, rides a swan.
  • Devi’s mode of transport or vahana to the earth is quite significant as it is believed that her choice of vahana indicates how things would be the following year. For example, if Devi comes to Earth on a boat, it means there will be floods the following year.
  • An important ritual is observed on Soshti or the sixth day when the Goddess is given a final touch on her eyes. It is said that on that day, the Goddess becomes alive. Also known as ‘chokkudaan’ or giving life to an idol, the ritual is done by the chief sculptor of the pratima (idol) in complete darkness.
  • Plants are also part of Durga Puja celebrations in the form of ‘Kola Bou’ or the banana bride. On Saptami, Nabapatrika or nine leaves, including a banana plant, are bathed and placed beside Ganesha as his bride and worshiped.
  • One of the most significant rituals of Durga Puja is Kumari Puja or the worshipping of prepubescent girls. On Navami or the ninth day, young girls are considered the living incarnation of the Goddess and worshipped.
  • On the evenings of Ashtami and Navami, devotees dance in front of the Goddess with a clay pot filled with charcoal and ‘dhuna’(organic powdered incense) to the beats of dhaak (traditional drums). In some places, competitions are held for the dhanushinaach too. It is heartening to note that nowadays girls compete in this traditionally male-dominated dance.
  • On the last day, Bijoya Dashami, the Goddess is given a send-off in style. All married women from the neighborhood come together to play with sindur or vermillion. After offering it to the Goddess, they playfully smear the sindur on one another.
  • The Goddess and her children are then taken out in a procession for immersion. This marks the end of Durga Puja.  There is a tradition of visiting your friends and family on that day, and youngsters seek blessings from elders to have a fruitful year ahead.

 With its unique traditions and rituals for all the members of the family and for flora and fauna, Durga Puja is not just a religious festival for the people who celebrate it in its true spirit. It is a celebration of life in its full glory.

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