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Six-day rituals of Durga Utshob
Durga Puja also referred to as Durga Utshob or Sharodiya Utshob is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga. The festival epitomises the victory of Good over Evil.
Durga Puja is the celebration of the Goddess in all her different forms. The festival lasts for ten days, however the main ritual is only for the six days—Mahalaya, Mahasasthi, Mahasaptami, Mahaashtami, Mahanavami and Bijoya Dashami. Each day of Durga Puja has a special significance.
Mahalaya: Invoking the ten-armed Mahishasura Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo-demon
Mahalaya day, or the first day of Durga Utshob, is the day the Goddess is invited to come to earth with her children with Agomoni. It is the last day of the Pitri Paksha and the day of new moon.
The ‘Chakkhu Daan’ - literally, the giving of eyes ritual, happens on the day of Mahalaya. The eyes of the Devi are drawn on this day. This ritual signifies the spirit of the Goddess getting instilled in the clay effigy.
Mahsasthi: Welcoming the Goddess
Mahasasthi, the sixth day from the new moon, marks the beginning of the fascinating and impressive Bengali festival, Durga Puja. On the day Durga is welcomed with a ritual called ‘Bodhon’ in which the Pratima is unveiled for the public. Mothers fast for their children and their wellbeing. The fast is broken in the evening with fruits, vegetable and luchis/ pooris.
Mahasaptami: Giving life to Durga
Mahasaptami, the very next day of Sasthi, is the prime day of the fiesta when “pran pratistha” into the idol is done. “Pran pratistha” is completed soon after the bathing of the “Kola Bou” (a tender banana plant) is done. “Kola Bou” is generally wrapped with white colored saree which has a red border. The “Kola Bou” is used to carry out the rite of “Pran Pratistha” into the Devi idol.
Mahashtami: Kumari Puja
Mahashtami, the eighth day from the new moon, the most important day of the celebration, is the day when “Kola Bou” is worshipped. “Chandi Path”, Kumari Puja and Aarati attract local people to their adjoining puja pandals. This was the auspicious day when Devi Durga killed Mahisasura, the demon. The ceremony of Mahashtami continues from the early morning till the late night.
The most important part of Mahasthami puja, is Sandhi puja which takes place in the juncture of Mahasthami and Mahanabami.
Mahanavami: Animal sacrifice
This is the last day of the goddess in her paternal house. Hindus believe that Devi will go back to Kailasa after Mahanavami and she will again come back after one long year.
The ninth day is signified by animal sacrifice, or Boli. It involves a goat sacrifice to the Goddess.
Bijoya Dashami: Devi’s departure
On the day of Bijoya Dashami, Devi Durga starts her journey towards her abode in Kailasa. Before the Devi starts her journey with her four children, married women flock to the pandals to apply sindoor on the forehead of Devi and ask her to return again to her paternal house next year. Later, Devi Durga is immersed in the River.
Mahadashami marks the end of the carnival.