Durga Puja and Dushera : A Festive Vacation at Puri, India

“Yaa Devii Sarvabhuuteshhu Maatrirupena Sansthitah
Yaa Devii Sarvabhuuteshhu Shaktirupena Sansthitah
Yaa Devii Sarvabhuuteshhu Shaantirupena Sansthitah
Namastasyaih Namastasyaih Namastasyaih Namo Namah”

It means… Goddess Durga is omnipresent. She is the personification of Universal Mother. She is a Mother, who is present everywhere and who is embodiment of power and energy. Great mother, who is present everywhere and who is embodiment of Peace. I bow to that mother, I bow to Mother Durga, I bow to Shakti.

Lord Rama prayed to Devi Chandika seeking victory over Ravana. One blue lotus short he offered his eye to please the Goddess. In Mahabharata Pandavas ended their year of anonymity on Dussehra. According to the Puranas, King Suratha worshipped Durga in the spring.

Durga’s ten hands represent ten directions. Her three eyes represents – left eye desire (the moon), right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).

Her weapons are symbolic too:

•       She rides the lion, representative of power, will and determination.

•       Conch symbolizes the ‘Om’.

•       Bow and arrows represent energy.

•       Thunderbolt signifies firmness.

•       Lotus symbolizes certainty of success but not finality.

•       “Sudarshan-Chakra” of Lord Vishnu signifies that the entire world is subservient to her will.

•       Sword symbolizes knowledge.

•       Trident or “trishul” is symbol of three cardinal qualities – Satva (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity).

The rendition of Shri Chandika- in Mahalaya, reveals the coming of this primeval, divine mother “Yah Devi Sharbabhutesu…… Matri Rupini Samasthita.

In Orissa and Bengal Mother Durga is the married daughter, on an annual visit to her father’s place, with children. The puja in its present form started by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of the Shobhabazar Rajbari of Kolkata in honor of Lord Clive in 1757. Clive wished to pay thanks for his victory in the Battle of Plassey and the only church in Calcutta was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daulah :). With changing times the pujas have become community affairs.

In Orissa and Bengal, Durga Puja is the principal festival. People come home on vacations. On Vijaya Dashami, which coincides with Dusserah the idols are taken out for ceremonial immersion. Before she leaves maidens and housewives gives her a sendoff with sweets and betel leaves and nuts. Along with the sendoff there is also an entreaty to return early the next year.

As per Markandeya Purana Chedi King Suratha started Durga Puja around 300 BCE. The Chedi dynasty belonged to Kalinga (modern Orissa). A sculpture in the Jagannath temple also shows the Goddess being in the same pedestal along with Lord Jagannath and a king kneeling before them. The present form of worship started during the reign of Ganga King Chodaganga Dev in the 11th century at Puri. Sometimes around 1512 (some say 1517, others 1505) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had come to Cuttack during the reign of emperor Gajapati Pratap Rudra Dev. He started Durga puja at Binod Bihari temple, now known as Balu Bazar.

The first recorded Sarbojonin Durga Puja in Orissa dates back to 1832 in the Kazi Bazaar area of Cuttack. The Kar family of Balasore started Durga Puja in 1852. The Puja is celebrated in two different ways. In Shakti peethas (temples) it is observed with strict rituals laid down by the scriptures for 10 or 16 days known as Shodasa Upachara or Shohala dinatmaka. It starts 7 days before mahalaya called as mulastami and ends on Vijaya Dashami. In communal puja mandaps rituals are followed on a lesser scale.

A pandal in Oriya is called “Medho”. The most expensive installation was the ChaandiMerrha (Silver plated) of Choudhuri Bajaar, Cuttack. These days it is all gold plated, so the new name “Suna Medho” (Suna=Gold). The Durga Puja festivities are also prominent in Maa Katak Chandi Temple. She is the presiding deity of Cuttack. People believe her to be ‘The Living Goddess’.

Puri wears a festive look during the Durga Pujas and Dushera. Roads are illuminated and large pandals are extensively decorated. On Panchami preparations arealmost over. The Goddess is established in the mandap on Sasthi. Asper mythology the final stages of the battle was fought during Ashtamiand Navami. Ritual worship is done. It is nothing sort of ecstacy. Everyone is dressed in new dresses, fineries. Community Pujas see huge crowds. Cultural programmes are dished out. The earthen idol of Mahishamardini Durga is known as Gosani and the Dussehra fesival is known as Gosani Yatra. The co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga with Lord Jagannath is prevalent from 11th century, in Puri. Gosanis are aspects of Durga during her battle with mahisasura and have their origins in the folk culture. On the following day of Dusshera the Goshanis from all the sahis (streets) come together in procession in front of Shree  Jagannath Temple to pay tribute to lord Jagannath. This is known as ‘Bhasani Yatra’. Huge crowd gather to celebrate Bhasanai Yatra. In late night the idols are taken for immersion. Puri witnesses an unique scene of over 150 idols lined up for immersion. Is this the largest known congregation of Durga idols anywhere? The world famous sand artist Sudarshan Pattanaik creates his own idol of sand in the Puri beach every year.

Durga Pujas means festive holidays, vacation and a time to travel. Other than the summer vacations this is the longest vacation in the region. People from Bengal, Bihar, and Jharkhand have visited Puri for millennia.  The abode of Lord Jagannath is thronged with visitors throughout the year and other than the Rath Yatra the number is highest during the Durga Pujas. Puri is rediscovering itself a new with plush new resorts and inns and added modern comfort and amenities for visitors, tourist and guests.

In Western India, especially Gujarat, the navaratras see performanceof Garba and Dandiya. Women dressed in traditionally, dance around an earthen pot with a lamp inside. The pot symbolises the womb – “Garba” and the lamp inside – life. In Dandia men and women participate in pairs.

In Northern India navratras sees the “Ramlila” – a traditional rendition of the Ramayana. Dusshera sees burning effigies of Ravana,
Kumbhaklaran and Meghnad symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.

During Dusshera celebration of Mysore Devi Chamundi, the presiding family deity of the Maharaja of Mysore is taken in a grand procession to the hilltop temple.

Special Trains for Durga Puja 2010 between Puri and Howrah New Delhi and rest of India. To clear the extra rush of passengers during Durga Puja 2010, Indian Railways will run two pairs of weekly Puja special trains between Puri and Howrah. These special trains will start running on 7th September 2010 and will end on 29th December 2010.

Durga Puja itinerary followed with Laxmi Puja as per Kohinoor Panjika of Orissa  of 2010-11.

Durga Puja 2010

In 2010 Durga Puja festival will be celebrated from October 8th to -18th’ 2010. Toshali Sands welcomes all to be the part of Durga Puja Festival experiencing, exclusive arrangement has been done for the guest to witness and be the part of the festival. For Durga Puja Package Reservation click on http://bit.ly/biSkc6 For more details write to metu@toshali.in

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