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Durga Puja

Goddess Durga

Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Thus, Durga Puja festival epitomises the victory of Good over Evil. In Bengal, Durga is worshipped as Durgotinashini, the destroyer of evil and the protector of her devotees.

The Durga puja has been celebrated since the medieval period, and has evolved and adapted to the world as time passed. A considerable literature exists around Durga in the Bengali language and its early forms, including avnirnaya (11th century), Durgabhaktitarangini by Vidyapati (a famous Maithili poet of the 14th century), but the goddess Durga was not fully integrated into the Hindu pantheon, primarily in Bengal, in the 16th century. Early forms of Durgotsavs (Durga festivals) were primarily private worship in personal residences with the use of musical instruments such as the mridanga, mandira, and smakhya.

According to Archeological evidence from Parashurameshvara Temple built in 6th Century in Bhubaneswar , Odisha says Sadabhula Mahisamardhini Durga being worshiped in Shiva temples .

During the 18th century, the worship of Durga became popular among the land aristocrats of Bengal, the Zamindars. Prominent Pujas were conducted by the zamindars and jagirdars, being enriched by emerging British rule, including Raja Nabakrishna Deb, of Shobhabajar, who initiated an elaborate Puja at his residence. These celebrations brought the Durgostavs out of individual homes and into the public sphere. Festivities were celebrated as a community, where royalty and peasantry were welcomed into the home of the zamindar or bania (merchant) to feast together. The festivities became heavily centred on entertainment — music and female dancers — as well as lavish feasts that continued for the entire month. In the 19th century, the Pujas celebrated placed less emphasis on elaborate celebration and feasting, and more on including all of the community. They moved from being a show of wealth and authority by royalty and merchants back to a festival of worship and community. Many of these old puja exist today. The oldest such Puja to be conducted at the same venue is in Rameswarpur, Odisha, where it has been continued since the last four centuries, starting from the time when the Ghosh Mahashays from Kotarang migrated there as a part of Todarmal's contingent during Akbar's rule. Today, the culture of Durga Puja has shifted from the princely houses to Sarbojanin (literally, "involving all") forms. The first such puja was held at Guptipara — it was called barowari (baro meaning twelve and yaar meaning friends).

Today's Puja, however, goes far beyond religion. Visiting the pandals recent years, one can only say that Durgapuja is the largest outdoor art festival on earth. The music, dancing, and art displayed and performed during the Durga puja played an integral part in connecting the community in Bengal, and eventually across India and the world. In the 1990s, a preponderance of architectural models came up on the pandal exteriors, but today the art motif extends to elaborate interiors, executed by trained artists, with consistent stylistic elements, carefully executed and bearing the name of the artist.

The sculpture of the sculpture itself has evolved. The worship always depicts Durga with her four children, and occasionally two attendant deities and some banana-tree figures. In the olden days, all five sculptures would be depicted in a single frame, traditionally called pata. Since the 1980s however, the trend is to depict each sculpture separately.

From the medieval period up through present day, the Durga puja celebrates the goddess and brings the Hindu community together by integrating modernised aspects of entertainment and technology, while still maintaining the religious worship. Video Courtesy - Ranjana Jha