What is Durga Puja?
Celebrated in the Hindu month of Ashwin, Durga Puja is one of the most iconic festivals of India. As the cool months of September and October set in, the festival season begins in the country. One of the first major ones is Durgotsava or Durga Puja, during which devotees pray to the Hindu goddess Durga. This ten-day festival is a celebration of Goddess Durga’s victory over the shape-shifting demon Mahishasura. It symbolises the overarching victory of good over evil. It is also a harvest festival where Goddess Durga is celebrated as the maternal force behind all life and growth.
Durga Puja is largely celebrated in Eastern India, throughout the states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Bihar, and Odisha. Festivities are both public and private in nature. Huge pandals or temporary stages are erected which are then decorated beautifully to show off the importance of the festival. Several special foods are made throughout the ten days and feasting is a big part of the public evening celebrations. Scripture readings are conducted, processions are taken out, and this is an opportunity for the community to come together to enjoy performances and other cultural celebrations. The beloved Goddess Durga can be seen in many forms – from the fearsome avatar that has the skulls of her enemies in a chain around her neck to a more benevolent maternal version. Many other Hindu gods and goddesses are also worshipped alongside.
Navratri and Dussehra are often celebrated as analogous festivals in other regions of India. During these the story of Lord Ram, an avatar of Vishnu, is performed as a play or musical called the Ram Lila, culminating with a public burning of effigies of King Ravana, his enemy and the symbol of evil in the story.
Travel during Durga Puja
Durga Puja is a festival that one must celebrate at least once in their lifetime. Besides the usual fanfare that will just raise your spirits no matter what, there are regional differences in how these festivities are conducted. A trip centered around exploring the various ways people across India celebrate these festivals is well worth the effort. Sterling Resorts is the best stay partner for this adventure! From mouthwatering festival food to esoteric local customs, travel during Durga Puja will enrich your world view. What is even better is that in 2019, the festival begins over the weekend – what more of an excuse do you need to pack your bags and go?
Where to Go During Durga Puja
In many parts of Uttar Pradesh, Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. Pandals are erected where priests read the scriptures from Durga Saptashati. These pandals are grand – decorated with flowers and colour, and it becomes an opportunity for the community to mingle and interact. Like in Bihar, on the very last day of the festival, there is a tradition in which young girls are fed food that has been blessed. This is supposed to bring good fortune and considered highly auspicious for the community.
West Bengal and Assam
This is truly the mecca for all Durga Puja celebrations. Whether you are in Kolkata or any other city in the country, no one celebrates Durga Puja or as they call it “Pujo” like the Bengalis. Devotees turn up in their best new clothing, decked out to the nines to celebrate Goddess Durga. Other than the spiritual and religious customs that are adhered to and ceremonies performed, there is a huge social and community aspect to the festivities. For many Bengalis, this is the time to reconnect with their friends and family and look forward to the blessings of the coming year. There is legendary feasting with a vast variety of dishes being prepared and served for everyone attending. Priests read their prayers over four days and on the last day, Goddess Durga departs amidst a lot of show.
In Tamil Nadu, the festival is celebrated as Navratri. While the traditional festivities will be familiar, there is an unusual aspect of how Tamilians celebrate this festival on the last few days. A golu exhibition – where dolls are displayed to tell a story or adhere to a chosen theme on a multi-tiered display structure – is an experience that just cannot be missed. This is an aspect of the puja festivities that will particularly striking for children, since it caters to their imagination. The dolls are usually made of clay by local artisans and they are arranged in a way that each level tells a story. Popular temples across the state like Kapaleeswarar, Parthasarathy and the Vadapalani are known to put up magnificent displays of their golus. Traditionally, families will visit each other’s houses to enjoy the unique golu displays at each house and use the opportunity to chit chat and share dishes made from different pulses throughout the nine days of the festival. The bommai golu lends a certain air of levity to the festival, creating a joyful atmosphere that really kicks off the season’s festivities.
The festivities are not limited to households. The shopping malls, hotels and banquet halls enthusiastically organise various events like dandiya nights, buffets, etc.
Experience the grandeur of festivities during Pujo season with our resorts spread across the length and breadth of the country.
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