Religion teaches mankind about humanity and love. In India every festival is an opportunity to spread love and happiness among all.
One such festival - traditional yet modern, wrapped up in customs and also an excuse to take a break from the monotony of everyday life: The Durga puja. Durga puja is also popularly known as Sharadotsav or the autumnal festival. This festival is celebrated according to the dates of the traditional Hindu calendar, roughly between September and October.
Like many other Hindu festivals this too marks the triumph of good over evil. This South Asian festival celebrates the victory of goddess Durga over the Demon God Mahishasur. The festival of Durgotsav starts with the day of Mahalaya. The last five days of the festival are celebrated with great excitement. The sixth day of durga puja is called Shashti, the seventh day is known as shaptami, the eighth day is called ashthami and the final day or the tenth day being dashami.
During these last four days of Durga puja the goddess is believed to visit her maternal home along with her children Lord Ganesh, Lord Kartike as well as with Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Laxmi. Lord Shiva is also worshipped during these auspicious days of Durga puja as he is the Husband of Parvati, an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
Durga puja has evolved a lot during the past few centuries. Today this festival is not only about religion and customs. Durga puja is the largest outdoor art festival in the world. Since the 1990's the artisans of Bengal started experimenting with the outside structure of the puja pandal and started using various architectural designs and motifs.
Today the art of creating idols and innovative themed pandals has become a subject of study in the arts. Every year many artisans come up with thousands of new ideas relating to the themes in which the puja pandals are decorated.
The celebratory atmosphere starts with the day of Mahalaya. According to Hindu mythology this is the day when Goddess Durga descended from heaven to earth. During this day Bengalis wake up early in the morning to listen to the Devi Mahatmyam hymns that narrate the mythological story of Mahishasurmardini, another name for Goddess Durga. On the Eighth day of the puja, offerings of flowers and prayers are made to the Goddess of power and this ritual is called Pushpanjali.
On the last four days of Durga puja ritualistic dance prayers are organised. These prayers are known as aartis. During aarti the traditional drummers better known as the Dhaakis play their huge drums or Dhaks. These Dhakis are an intrinsic part of Durga puja.
These age-old traditions and festivals connect people from various parts of the world and bring them closer. Durga puja is one such occasion when breaking the barriers of social standing and monetary status people come together on one platform and enjoy themselves to their heart's fulfillment.
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