How many people outside of India heard about Durga Puja, annual, four-day celebration of a ten-arm Goddess vanquishing a demon?
Not too many, I’m sure.
Yet, it’s one of the greatest shows of art, spirituality and culture. It’s one of the most festive autumn events held under the sun. Millions of men, women and children have a great time.
And they have great food. Fabulous food for four full days — from the seventh lunar day through the tenth.
You eat “mutton” curry on Navami (but you do not use onions or garlic in that curry for cultural reasons), the ninth lunar calendar day. You eat sweets — including Bengal’s famous Ras Golla — on Dashami, the final, tenth day of the moon. Then, you keep eating visiting elderly’s and friends and relatives, paying them formal respect. It’s an enormous tradition. Respect has always been a big part of India’s and Bengal’s traditions. No matter how different it has become now.
I grew up in India in this tradition. Never thought about religion as a dogma. It was as much about spirituality as it was about food, friendship and fun.
A community Durga Puja with makeshift temple.
So, what is Durga Puja?
This is what my husband Partha wrote in an online travel journal Travelogged. I quote from it.
“Four-day Hindu festival Durga Puja takes place every fall all over eastern region of India. Puja is a Sanskrit word for worship and Durga is a goddess who vanquishes the demon Asura with her ten arms. According to the Bengali Hindu traditions, Mother Goddess Durga comes down from her Himalayan abode on to the plains for those four autumn days, and brings along her children Ganesha, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kartik, who each symbolizes a special force.”
“In West Bengal and Bangladesh, it’s really more about expressing incredible folk artistry and music rather than the religion itself. That’s the unique, secular perspective of Bengali Hinduism. Appreciative Western minds would love it,” he wrote.
Durga Puja: where art and culture meet.
You wouldn’t believe how fantastic the art is. Here are some pictures. All of it for four days only, and then they all disappear, forever. Artisans working for months — day and night — to produce their wonderful art, right on time.
Only if the Western World knew!