Basanth Panchami Diwali Durga Puja Dussehra Ganesha Chaturthi Hanuman Jayanthi Holi
Krishna Janamashtami Makarasankranthi Nagapanchami Navarathri Rama Navami Shivrathri
Shivrathri Rama Navami Navarathri Nagapanchami Makarasankranthi Krishna Janamashtami
Holi Hanuman Jayanthi Ganesha Chaturthi Dussehra Durga Puja Diwali Basanth Panchami


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Durga Puja
durga puja On the first day of the festival, hymns are recited in to invoke the goddess in the heavens. This special recital is known as the Mahalaya. The next five days are spent preparing for the grand yearly visit of ma, or 'mother' as Durga is affectionately called in Bengal. On the sixth day, called Mahashashti (the great sixth day), the idol of the goddess is placed on a raised platform in a previously erected enclosure. The goddess is also believed to arrive on the same day, accompanied by her children Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. The priest ceremonially establishes life in the clay image and from now on till the tenth day, the image is treated as the goddess herself. It is obligatory for all worshippers to clean their houses, take a cleansing bath and offer prayers to the goddess adorned in new clothes. Many devotees also observe a fast on this day and break the fast after the evening arati.

For the next three days, devotees in the thousands come for darshan of the goddess and to offer prayers to her. Every morning on these four days, flowers are offered to the goddess. Between the eighth and ninth days, sandhya Puja is performed in which animals are sacrificed in honor of the goddess in many places in Bengal. The ninth day is considered doubly auspicious, as the goddess is believed to have conceived and sent to earth by the gods on this day. The tenth day or Vijayadashmi (the victorious tenth day) is both a day of joy and sorrow. It was on this day that the goddess slew the demon and rid the earth of his evil, but it is also the day when she returns home. The idol of the goddess is taken to the river to be immersed on this day.

Before the idol is lifted from its home, the priest symbolically immerses the idol, by capturing its reflection in a bowl of water. This is known as darpan visarjan or mirror immersion. Married women now take their last darshan of the goddess. They use the huge amount of specially consecrated sindoora lying around the goddess to anoint the head and the forehead of their married friends and relatives. This is believed to grant along life to their husbands. The priest now ceremonially extracts the 'soul' from the image, after which it is life less again.

durga pujaThis done, huge truck is organized to lift the now lifeless idol of Durga and take it to be immersed on the edge of the river. The image is accompanied by a procession of dancers, singers and musicians. A number of people gather on both sides of the road to witness the event. Shouts of 'Durga Mata Ki Jai' (Hail Mother Durga) and 'Aaschey bachar a bar hawbey' (She will come again next year) resound the air. With the immersion, the ten-day festivities come to an end.

This festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. The yearly visit of the goddess is thought to bring well being and happiness to the people. Because of her auspicious presence, no meat, wine or alcohol is consumed at this time. Everyone is expected to have new clothes for the festival. The city of Calcutta almost never sleeps during the last five days. All, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, participate in this great festival giving rise to a brotherly spirit. Many cultural events are also organized during this period. 'Dhunuchi nritya' or ‘the dance with effervescent smoke' is a traditional dance form from Bengal, which is performed in front of the idol to the beat of the dhaki, the traditional drums.

On the tenth day people visit each other's houses, the young touching the elder's feet as a mark of respect and then enjoying the renowned Bengali sweets. The festival fosters a feeling of harmony, joy and peace.
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