Any festival in the Indian subcontinent is incomplete without devotion and rituals. Durga Puja too has some traditional customs. All Bengalis celebrating the occasion follow Durga Puja rituals across the world. These rituals are a way to invoke the Devi and worship this Supreme source of energy.The occasion of Durga Puja commences with Mahalaya – the day when the fierce battle between the goddess and demon ensued. The rituals consist of reciting the couplets (shklokas) from Chandi (Chandipath) and evoking the powers of Devi Durga.In the Bengali community, people come together and raise funds to build a nice tent and create the auspicious clay idol. After creating the tents (Pandals) and setting apart space for establishing Maa Durga’s idol (murti), begins the actual ritual.
The most important days in Durga Puja are Maha Saptami, Maha Asthami, Maha Nabomi, and Vijay Dashami. Before the idol of Devi is established (which usually happens on Ashtami), a small banana tree dressed in yellow silk cloth with red border is carried to the tent (Mandap) in a grand procession.
The tree is thereafter kept beside the idol of elephant headed God, Ganesha. This tree is worshipped as a goddess and is supposed to be lord Ganesha’s wife. The main puja of Maha Saptami is Kalaparambho.
Then comes Asthami, when the idol of Mother Durga is established. Devi durga is accompanied by the idols of her four children – Ganesha, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati. With the onset of the eighth-day begins a series of semi-fasting process (not fasting for the whole day) known as Anjali. Apart from the traditional recitation of hymns and shlokas, Asthami Puja is associated with Kumari Puja, or worshipping the girl child. And then there is the auspicious Sandhi puja, which marks the beginning of Maha Navami. Nabami Puja begins right after Sandhi Puja. In all these days, bhog (auspicious food offerings to Maa Durga) is surrendered to the Devi, which is later served to the devotees.
Finally dawns Dashami, also known as Vijay Dashami, the day when Devi finally defeats Mahishasur. On this day immersion of the clay idols take place (Visarjan) amidst music, beat of drums and chanting of mantras. It is also the day when married women play with vermilion (Sindur), known as Sindur Khela. Thereafter, the idol of goddess is immersed into a water body, signifying her return to her husband Shiv’s home in Mount Kailash.
Like any other festival, the occasion of Durga Puja is marked with rituals and celebrations. These rituals affirm the faith of mankind over God and the victory of evil.