Sunday, October 2, 2011

Goddess Durga Festivities

It's that time of year and festivities for the Goddess Durga are in full swing in India and elsewhere around the world wherever there are Hindus. 

Durga represents the raw, creative force of the Universe; "She" can be benign and benevolent, "She" can be fearsome and destructive.  "She" is often depicted riding a feline -- either a lion or a tiger.  In this, "She" shares similarities with the Goddess Hat-hert (Hathor) of ancient Egypt and the ancient Chinese Goddess Xi Wangmu (Hsi Wang Mu), both of whom, in their earliest forms (before they were "tamed" down over the centuries) displayed feline characteristics and could, in the blink of an eye, turn into fear-inspiring destructive creatures of death.  Hat-hert was the roaring lioness; Xiwangmu had tiger's teeth and claws and leopard's tail. 

From Washington Bangla Radio
The Old Sobhabazar Rajbari Puja | WBRi Kolkata Bonedi Barir Pujo Report
Sun, 10/02/2011 - 09:57   

Calcutta, October 1, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Kolkata embraces few of the best known traditional house hold pujas that can be found in the entire nation. One such puja is of course the Sobha Bazar Rajbari Durga Puja. The puja is celebrated in two houses adjacent to each other.
"Baghbari" owned by Gopimohon Deb was constructed after the original residence was made by Raja Nabakrishna Deb.

Raja Nabakrishna Deb was the famous exponent of Hinduism during the Brahmo Samaj Movement by Raja Rammohon Roy. It was in the year 1757 after the famous Battle of Plassey that this Durga Puja was organized.

Like most of the families this one too has their own sets of rituals. The arrangement for the puja starts from the day of 'Rath Yatra' itself when the the wooden frame work of the idol is worshipped. The Durga idol is made inside the household and the ritual of bodhon starts 15 days before Nabami. For the Deb family, Goddess Durga is nothing else than the daughter of their household idol, Gopinath Jeu.

The devi is placed in 'Ek Chala', decked with silver ornaments. The silver foils which were imported from Germany came through post meaning 'dak' and thus the decoration came to be known as 'Daker Saaj'.

The idol of Sobha Bazar Raj Bari is adorned with gold ornaments like nose ring and 'bindi' which are the only metal used to decorate the goddess. Considered to be one of the oldest pujas in the city now, it is said that canons used to be fired in the initial days of the festival as a part of the celebration. But now, gun shots have replaced them.

Debs' perform a ritual called "Kanakanjali". Gold coins dating to the time of Akbar's reign were thrown at married women with children.

The immersion ceremony is very special and dazzling.

The ritual called 'Tarpan' is performed to let the dead ancestors know of the Puja is performed in the Dashami morning.

The Bisarjan ceremony (Immersion) is a spectacular affair.Women dress in red and white saris while men wear dhotis carrying seven golden umbrellas.
A musical band play along and two Nilkantha birds are released. Around 60 men lend their shoulders to the goddess on her way to the river. Previously the band was hired from Scotch Highlander (Gorar Baddi). The myth behind the release of Nilkantha Birds is quite interesting.

The first Nilkantha is set free to go to Kailash to convey the message of Devi Durga's departure to Shiva.

The other Nilkantha bird is set free in the middle of the river to ensure the message has been conveyed in case the first one fails. After the goddess is immersed in the water then the holy water collected which is called "Gana shanti jal" and it is sprinkled on everyone present.

So get ready for the next five days of fun and merry-making and amid visiting the famous club pujas of the city one should also squeeze some time and taste the cultural past of Kolkata by visiting one of these few ancient households that still worships the goddess of shakti with equal pomp and glory.

This article provides some explanation regarding the different aspects of the Goddess Durga and the rituals involving her celebration (puja):

From The Times of India
Nine leaves make goddess-devotee bond stronger

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