Composition : Durga Puja

Durga Puja

↬ The Biggest Religious Festival of the Hindu Community in Bangladesh

The biggest religions festival of the Hindu community in Bengal was and still is the Durga Puja. Hindus participate in it with great enthusiasm. Durga Puja is an old festival but it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty how old it is. The most antiquated embodiment of goddess Durga who slew the Mahisasura belonged to the fifteenth century. The nature and mode of the Durga Puja, which would be performed in the past, were different. It is the folk form of the past, which has turned now into an autumnal festival. It is also known as untimely awakening of goddess Durga as Ramachandra invoked her because in the past Durga Puja was performed in the spring and that was the propitious time for offering Puja to the goddess. But in the Ramayana compiled by Kirttivasa, it is mentioned that Rama offered the goddess untimely Puja from which the practice of performing the Puja in the autumn was introduced. 

A series of festivals centering Durga Puja is held in Bangladesh. Usually, on the sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight in the Bengali month of Ashwin, the ceremonial awakening of goddess Durga takes place. Therefter, Puja is performed for three days on the seventh, eighth and ninth, and the immersion of the image of the goddess Durga with her companions is held on the tenth day. People exchange greetings for fifteen days after the immersion of the image of the deity. On the following full-moon day, Laksmi Puja takes place on the last day of the Bengali month of Kartik, Kartik Puja (worship of god Kartik who is the commander-in-chief of heavenly forces) is performed. On the fifth lunar day of the bright fortnight in the bengali month of Magh, Saraswati Puja is held. Before that, on the new moon day usually in the month of Kartik, Kali Puja is performed. The series of Pujas, which starts in Aswin with Durga, comes to an end with Saraswati. Thus although there is provision for offering Puja separately for all the gods and goddesses, there is no distinct system for offering Puja of Ganesh. However, before starting Puja to any other god or goddess, it is the usual practice of offer Puja to Ganesha because without pronouncing ‘O Ganeshaya Namah’ no Puja to the other deities becomes efficacious. 

In Bengal, Durga Puja was introduced in the sixteenth century by Raja Kangsanarayana (dewan of Bengal and ruler of Tahirpur) who was a mace-bearer of Emperor Akbar. After introduction, it took almost three hundred years for Durga Puja to become the universal and biggest religious festival of the Hindus of Bengal. Durga Puja was observed for the first time as a festival full of pomp and grandeur in Kolkata in the nineteenth century. Thereafter, Durga Puja gradually spread to various regions of Bengal. The zamindars played the main role in making this as the most popular festival. 

An excellent account of Durga Puja at Kotalipara in Faridpur at that time is obtained from the autobiography of Kirshnakumar Mitra. He describes that the Puja festival would begin with the sound of drums and moulding of the images. In the autumn, mast expanse of water would inundate the field and in these circumstances, Durga festival would be observed in almost every household. In the Puja, numerous he-goats would be immolated. In the well-to-do families, its number would be not less than sixty. 

The inundated area would remain full of noise for five-six days because of the sound created by the beating of drums and tom-toms. All the people, male and female, young or old, would become besotted with songs, music, eating, pleasure-trips and other amusements. As accompaniments of Durga Puja were performances of theatre, Kirtan, Dhap (a kind song attended with slow dance), Jatra, etc.

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