I had a fantastic time celebrating Durga Puja 2013 with friends in Mumbai. I must say that this city glows like a beautiful bride during the festivity. Dusherra celebrates Ma Durga who embodies the divine feminine force that governs all cosmic creation, existence and change.
My mum had told me the story about Maa Durga – Durga emerged from the collective energies of all of the gods, including Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, to vanquish the demon Mahishasura who could not be defeated by any god or man. She is thus the compassionate savior of all of the Gods and also the demon-fighting form of Shiva’s wife, Parvati.
Durga Puja is the largest festival of the year for Bengalis. It celebrates the annual visit of Durga and her children to her ancestral home, and her reunion with Shiva on Vijayadashami. Amongst us Bengalis, this festival occurs primarily on days six through ten of Navratri. On the tenth day, Durga’s victory over evil is celebrated as Vijayadashami (Dusherra). This also commemorates Rama’s vistory over the demon Ravana as described in the Ramayana).
Pandal at Lokhandwala
This time round in Mumbai, I had the chance to visit two such beautifully elaborated pandals – one in Lokhandwala and one in Bandra. The idols are breathtakingly beautiful and are worshipped for five days. and then carried in magnificent procession to a local river for immersion, symbolizing Durga’s reunion with Shiva. The five-day period of worship is a time of personal introspection and bodily purification for devotees, with many avoiding meat, alcohol, onions, wheat and grains. The end of Navratri and Durga Puja marks an auspicious time for starting new activities or business ventures.
Pandal at Bandra
Each year, fierce competitions are held among different colonies for the best pandals and puja themes. I personally felt the preparations, decorations, program line-up and the delicious cuisine offered at the Lokhandwala Puja was exceptional! The Bandra Puja gave a more homely, warm and cosy feeling with lesser people and the gorgeous Durga Idol there completely left me spell-bounded!
This year, I also attempted the Aalta on my hands and feet which caught a few eyes!
And my friends were religiously in love with the Bengali food (Meeshti Doi was an instant favourite amongst all my friends) and music.
Lastly, the pious sound of the Dhaak and the divine aarti and pooja all in the air brought about a strange kind of tranquility in the chaos. It infused a fresh sort of optimism as everyone prayed for themselves, their families and friends. It is a unique feeling!
Tell me people – what is your favourite festival and how do you celebrate it?