Published:  12:34 AM, 28 September 2017

Stories behind the Sharadiya Durga festival

Stories behind the Sharadiya Durga festival

Durga Puja is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India, celebrated with great vigor and devotion. The origin of Durga Puja goes back to as early as 16th century A.D. The festival is celebrated for ten days in Ashwin month of Hindu calendar. It usually falls in the month of September and October. Durga Pooja celebration involves worshipping of Goddess Durga, the ten armed Goddess riding the lion. Last four days called as Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami are being celebrated with much aplomb and gaiety.

The day is also observed to commemorate Lord's Ram's first invocation of Goddess Durga when he was preparing to wage war with the king of Lanka, Ravana. The legend has it that Lord Ram invoked Goddess Durga, also known as the slayer of the buffalo-demon, by lighting 108 lamps and offering 108 blue lotuses before going to war. Today, the celebration of Durga Puja has more evolved into popular culture of Bengal and special occasion for family reunion and social gatherings.

How It Began
The origin of celebrating Durga Pooja in Bengal dates back to 16th century AD. According to legends, the landlords of Malda and Dinajpur started Durga Puja for the first time in the state of Bengal. However, according to some sources it is said that Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya or Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur first initiated autumn Durga Puja or Sharadiya, as it is called in Bengali.

Over the years, the celebration has taken the form of mass festivity called as Barowari Puja when twelve friends of Guptipara in Bengal came together to organize a collective Puja called as 'twelve-pal' or Barowari Puja in 1790. This collective form of celebrating Durga Puja was first initiated in Kolkata by Raja Harinath of Cossimbazar in 1832. Gradually by 1910, this collective form of celebrating Durga Puja evolved into community celebration known as Sarbajanin Durga Puja. It was first held by Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha in Baghbazar in Kolkata with participation from large number of people. The tradition of observing Sarbajanin Durga Puja in the eighteenth century gave way to the growth of Bengali culture.

After British invasion in India, many British officers including British soldiers also participated in Durga Puja by saluting Durga idol and eating prasad. In 1765, the East India Company held a grandiose Durga Puja as they presented ceremonial thanksgiving to the deity. However, many viewed this as an act of political appeasement to Hindus. There were even reports that John Chips, the auditor-general of British East India Company observed Durga Puja at his Birbhum office.

But this kind of large scale participation from British officials did not last for long as it was banned in 1840. When English East India Company changed its capital from Kolkata to Delhi, a large number of people from Bengal moved to Delhi and settled there. Hence, in 1910, Durga Puja was first celebrated in Delhi. They also conducted a ritual- mangal Kalash consecration ceremony for the deity. Since then Durga Puja has been celebrated in Delhi, with great zeal and enthusiasm. In 2009, centennial celebration of Durga Puja was held at Kashmere Gate Durga Puja in Delhi.

The writer is a freelancer

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