Durga Puja

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Durga Puja
জী. ডি. ব্লক সল্টলেক দূর্গা পুজো ২০১৮.jpg
G.D Block, Saltlake Durga Puja
Observed byBengali, Odia, Maithils and Assamese as a socio-cultural and religious festival[1]
CelebrationsFamily and other social gatherings, shopping and gift-giving, feasting, pandal-visiting, lighting decorations, cultural events, idol immersion etc.
ObservancesCeremonial worship of goddess Durga
BeginsSixth day of Ashwin shukla paksha[2]
Seventh day of Ashwin shukla paksha (in Bihar)
EndsTenth day of Ashwina shukla paksha[2]
2018 date15 October  – 19 October
2019 date4 October - 8 October
Related toMahalaya, Navratri, Dussehra
Durga idol closeup from Railpukur par United Club, Kolkata.

Durga Puja (Bengali: দুর্গাপূজা, Assamese: দুৰ্গা পূজা, Odia: ଦୁର୍ଗା ପୂଜା), also called Durgotsava, is an annual Hindu festival in the Indian subcontinent that reveres the goddess Durga.[3][4] It is particularly popular in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, and Odisha, the modern-nation of Bangladesh and the diaspora from this region, and in Nepal where it is called Dashain. The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, typically September or October of the Gregorian calendar,[5][6] and is a multi-day festival that features elaborate temple and stage decorations (pandals), scripture recitation, performance arts, revelry, and processions. [3][7][8] It is a major festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism across India and Shakta Hindu diaspora.[9][10][11]

Durga Puja festival marks the battle of Goddess Durga with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura, and her emerging victorious.[12][13][note 1] Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of good over evil, but it also is in part a harvest festival that marks the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.[15][16] The Durga Puja festival dates coincide with Vijayadashami (Dussehra) observed by other traditions of Hinduism, where the Ram Lila is enacted — the victory of Rama is marked and effigies of demon Ravana are burnt instead.[17][18]

The primary goddess revered during Durga Puja is Durga, but her stage and celebrations feature other major deities of Hinduism such as goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, prosperity), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (god of good beginnings) and Kartikeya (god of war). In the Bengali traditions, the other deities next to her side are considered to be the children of Durga (Parvati).[19] The Hindu god Shiva, as Durga's husband, is also revered during this festival. The festival begins on the first day with Mahalaya, marking Durga's advent in her battle against evil. Starting with the sixth day (Sasthi), the goddess is welcomed, festive Durga worship and celebrations begin in elaborately decorated temples and pandals hosting the statues.[4][6] Lakshmi and Saraswati are revered on the following days. The festival ends of the tenth day of Vijaya Dashami, when with drum beats of music and chants, Shakta Hindu communities start a procession carrying the colorful clay statues to a river or ocean and immerse them, as a form of goodbye and her return to divine cosmos and Mount Kailash.[4][6]

The festival is an old tradition of Hinduism, though it is unclear how and in which century the festival began. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga Puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.[9] The prominence of Durga Puja increased during the British Raj in its provinces of Bengal and Assam.[20][4] Durga Puja is a ten-day festival,[21][3] of which the last five are typically special and an annual holiday in regions such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Odisha and Tripura where it is particularly popular.[22][6] In the contemporary era, the importance of Durga Puja is as much as a social festival as a religious one wherever it is observed.[4]


This is an idol of Durga Goddess also known as Parvati. Hindus worship idols and this is one of it which is hugely celebrated among the Hindus. This photo was captured at Ram Krishna Ashram Rishra at the third day of the four-day celebration.

In West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Tripura, Durga Puja is also called Akalbodhan (অকাল বোধন, "untimely awakening of Durga"), Sharadiya Pujo ("autumnal worship"), Sharodotsab (Bengali: শারদোৎসব, ("festival of autumn")), Maha Pujo ("grand puja"), Maayer Pujo ("worship of the Mother"), Durga Pujo, or merely Puja or Pujo. In Bangladesh, Durga Puja used to be celebrated as Bhagabati Puja.[23]

Durga puja is also called Navaratri Puja elsewhere in India,[4] such as in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra,[24] Kullu Dussehra in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh,[25] Mysore Dussehra in Mysore, Karnataka,[26] Bommai Golu in Tamil Nadu and Bommala koluvu in Andhra Pradesh [27] and Bathukamma in Telangana.


Durga is an ancient deity of Hinduism, according to archeological and textual evidence available. However, the origins of Durga Puja are unclear and undocumented. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga Puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.[9] The 11th or 12th century Jainism text Yasatilaka by Somadeva mentions a festival and annual dates dedicated to a warrior goddess, celebrated by the king and his armed forces, and the description mirrors attributes of a Durga Puja.[5] The word Durga, and related terms appear in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127, and in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda.[28][29][note 2] A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.[28] While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her or about Durga Puja that is found in later Hindu literature.[31]

The Dadhimati Mata Temple of Rajasthan preserves a Durga-related inscription from chapter 10 of Devi Mahatmya. The temple inscription has been dated by modern methods to 608 CE.[32][33]

A key text associated with Durga Puja observations is Devi Mahatmya, which is recited during the festival. Durga was likely well established before the time this Hindu text was composed, which scholars variously estimate to between 400 and 600 CE.[34][35][36] The Devi Mahatmya mythology describes the nature of demonic forces symbolized by Mahishasura as shape-shifting, deceptive and adapting in nature, in form and in strategy to create difficulties and achieve their evil ends. Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.[12][13][note 3]

Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Epics period of ancient India, that is the centuries around the start of the common era.[37] Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna characters of the Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga.[38] She appears in Harivamsa in the form of Vishnu's eulogy, and in Pradyumna prayer. The prominent mention of Durga in this popular epics may have led to her worship.[39][5][40]

The Indian texts that mention the Durga Puja festival are inconsistent. The King Suratha legend found in some version of the Puranas mention it to be a spring festival, while the Devi-Bhagavata Purana and two other Shakta Puranas mention it to be an autumn festival. The more ancient Ramayana manuscripts are also inconsistent. Versions of Ramayana found in North, West and South India describe the Hindu god Rama to be remembering the Surya (the Sun god) before his battle with the demon Ravana, but the Bengali manuscripts of Ramayana such as by the 15th century Krttivasa describe Rama to be worshipping Durga.[41]

According to Pranab Bandyopadhyay, the worship of fierce warrior goddess Durga, and her darker and more violent manifestation Kali, became very popular in Bengal region during and after the medieval era Muslim invasion.[42] The significance of Durga and other goddesses in Hindu culture, states Patricia Monaghan, increased after Islamic armies conquered Indian subcontinent and attempted to deny iconographic representation of its male and female "idols".[43] According to Rachel McDermott, and other scholars such as Brijen Gupta, the persecution of Bengali Hindus in Bengal Sultanate and late medieval era religious politics led to a revival of Hindu identity and an emphasis on Durga Puja as a social festival that publicly celebrated the warrior goddess.[44]

A close up of a Durga idol

From the medieval period up through present-day, the Durga Puja has celebrated the goddess with performance arts and as a social event, while maintaining the religious worship.[45]


Durga puja deity images
The Durga idol being taken for immersion
The prasad or offering
A lady carrying the "prasad" or offering as part of a ritual

The Durga Puja festival is a ten-day event, of which the last five mark the popular practices. The festival begins with Mahalaya, a day where Hindus offer tarpaṇa waters to their dead ancestors, as well the advent of Durga.[4][6] The next most significant day of Durga Puja celebrations is the sixth day, called Shashthi where the local community welcomes the goddess and festive celebrations are inaugurated. On the seventh day (Saptami), eighth (Ashtami) and ninth (Navami), the goddess along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya are revered and these days mark the main Puja (worship) with recitation of the scriptures, the legends of Durga in Devi Mahatmya and social visits by families to elaborately decorated and lighted up temples and pandals (theatre like stages).[46][47][48]

Durga Puja as a harvest festival

Om you are rice [wheat...],
Om you are life,
you are the life of the gods,
you are our life,
your are our internal life,
you are long life,
you give life,
Om the Sun with his rays (....)

 — Hymn to start the Durga Puja,
Translator: David Kinsley[15]

The Durga festival is, in part, a post-monsoon harvest festival observed on the same days in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, as those in its other traditions.[49][50] The practice of including a bundle of nine different plants, called navapattrika, as nature's symbolism of Durga, is a testament practice to its agricultural importance.[15] The typically selected plants include not only representative important crops, but also non-crops. According to David Kinsley, a professor of Religious Studies specializing on Hindu goddesses, this probably signifies the Hindu belief that the goddess is "not merely the power inherent in the growth of crops but the power inherent in all vegetation".[15]

The festival is a major social and public event in eastern and northeastern states of India, where it dominates the religious life, with the temporary stage (pandal) built in community squares, roadside shrines and large Durga temples. However, it is also observed by some Shakta Hindus as a private, home-based festival.[51] The festival opens at twilight with prayers to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music, poetry, independent thought, inner knowing and creativity.[52] She is believed to be another aspect of the same one multidimensional goddess Devi Durga, and who is the external and internal activity of all existence, in everything and everywhere. This is typically also the day that the eyes of all deities on the Durga Puja stage are painted, bringing them to a lifelike appearance.[52][53] The day also marks prayers to Ganesha and visit to one or more Durga temples.[54]

The day two to five continue the remembrance and preparation to other aspects (manifestations) of goddess Durga, such as Kumari (goddess of fertility), Mai (mother), Ajima (grandmother), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and in some regions of the Saptamatrikas (seven mothers) or Navadurga (nine aspects of Durga).[55][8][56]

The sixth day launches major festivities and social celebrations. It is called Sasthi (literally, sixth), the goddess is welcomed, festive Durga worship and celebrations begin in elaborately decorated temples and pandals hosting the statues.[4][6] The first nine days overlap with Navaratri festivities in other traditions of Hinduism.[57][18]

The puja rituals are long and complicated. Three days of Mantras (words for spiritual transformation), Shlokas (verse) chants and Arati (prayer) and offerings are made, which include Vedic chants and multiple recitations of the Devi Mahatmya text in Sanskrit.[48] Durga Slokas (which is also known as Devi Mantra)[58] praises Durga as symbol of all divine forces. According to the sloka, Durga is omnipresent as the embodiment of power, nourishment, memory, forbearance, faith, forgiveness, intellect, wealth, emotions, desires, beauty, satisfaction, righteousness, fulfillment and peace.[59][note 4] The specific practices vary by region.[63] The following being most common:

Playful smearing of vermilion on Vijaya Dasami of Durga Puja, West Bengal
  • Preliminaries: the preparations before the actual Durga puja begins.[64]
  • Bodhana: the rites to awaken and welcome the goddess to be a guest, typically done on the sixth day of the festival.[65]
  • Adhivasa: anointing ritual wherein many symbolic offerings are made to Durga, where each item represents a remembrance of subtle forms of her. Typically completed on the sixth day as well.[66]
  • Saptami: bathing of the goddess, selection of the priest, elaborate prayers (arati), recitation of texts describing Durga heading to war against evil done on the seventh day of the festival.[67]
  • Mahastami: similar to Saptami, more prayers, recitation and enactment of Durga legends and scriptures on the eighth day. The day is significant because the moment when it ends and ninth day begins is considered the moment Durga kills the buffalo demon, the good once again emerges victorious over evil.[68]
Aarti dance on Mahanavami, Durga Puja in Bangalore (2009)
  • Sandhi Puja: one of the most important rituals during Durga Puja, it is a forty-eight minute high point that celebrates the climax of war which goddess Durga was engaged in. It is done at the exact time Mahashtami ends and Mahanavami begins, with rituals being performed for the last 24 minutes of Mahashtami and for the first 24 minutes of Mahanavami. The legend behind Sandhi Puja comes from when Durga was engaged in a fierce battle with Mahishasura and was attacked by the demons Chanda and Munda. Goddess Chamunda emerged from the third eye of Durga and killed Chanda and Munda at the cusp of Ashtami and Navami. In some regions, devotees sacrifice an animal such as a buffalo or goat, but in many regions, there isn't an actual animal sacrifice and a symbolic remembrance substitutes it. The surrogate effigy is smeared in red vermilion to symbolize the blood spilled.[69] The goddess is then offered food (bhog) by women, and afterwards, everyone eats. Major sites celebrating Durga Puja engage in a sixteen part devotional service. The community begins merrymaking, music, dancing, and women playfully smear the faces of their companions with sindoor (vermilion), all as a mark of the victory of good over evil.[70]
  • Mahanavami: the ninth day of festival observes rites similar to Saptami, with the difference that the celebration is after Durga's victory and Vedic style homa (fire oblation) rituals are now included. The other deities on the stage, such as Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are remembered and prayers offered to them.[71]
  • Vijaya Dasami: the tenth and last day, begins with Sindoor Khela, where married women smear sindoor or vermillion on the Goddess' idol, on her forehead and feet, before smearing it on each other. Since sindoor is like an ornament for married women, this ritual signifies them wishing each other a happy married life. They also offer bhog to the goddess. It ends with a great procession where the clay statues are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean coast for a solemn goodbye to Durga. It is an emotional day for some devotees, and the congregation sings emotional goodbye songs.[72][73] When the procession reaches the water, Durga is immersed, the clay dissolves, and she is believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva and cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members.[74] Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.[75]

Dhunuchi Naach, a dance performed with dhunachi (incense burner) is an integral part of the rituals. Drummers called dhakis, carrying large leather-strung dhak create music, people dance and complete the final day of worship called aarati.

Decorations: sculptures and stages[edit]

Durga puja decorations

The entire process of creation of the sculptures (murti) from the collection of clay to the ornamentation is a ceremonial process. Though the festival is observed post monsoon harvest, the artisans begin making the statues months before, during the summer. The process begins with prayer to Ganesha and to the materials such as bamboo frames in which the statue are cast.[76]

Clay, or local soil collected from different parts of the region, forms the base. This choice is a religious tradition wherein Durga, as the creative energy and material, is believed to be present everywhere and everything in the universe.[76] In Kolkata, one custom is to include soil samples, in the clay mixture for Durga, from areas locals believe to be nishiddho pallis (forbidden territories, brothels).[77]

The clay base is combined with straw, kneaded then molded into cast made from bamboo. This is set like any clay pot, layered to a final shape, cleaned, and polished when ready. A layer of vegetable fiber called jute, mixed in with clay, is attached to the top to prevent the statue from cracking in the months ahead. The heads of the statues are more complex, and usually, cast separately.[76] The limbs of the statues are mostly shaped from bundles of straws.[76] Then, starting about August, the local artisans hand-paint the statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, Kartikeya, the lion and the buffalo demon. The goddesses are dressed in fine silk saris, shown bejeweled and put into a pandal.[76][78]

The procedures and proportions of statue (pratima or murti) are described in arts-related Sanskrit text of Hinduism, such as the Vishvakarma sastra.[79]

Environmental impact[edit]

The traditional idols, states Christopher Chapple, are made of biodegradable materials such as "straw, clay, resin, and wood".[80] In the contemporary era, brighter colored statues have increased and diversified the use of non-biodegradable, cheaper or more colorful substitute synthetic raw materials. Environmental activists have raised concerns about the paint used to produce the statue, stating that the heavy metals in these paints pollute rivers when the statues are immersed at the end of the Durga festival.[80]

Brighter colors that are also biodegradable and eco-friendly, as well as the historic tradition-based natural colors, are typically more expensive.[81] The state of West Bengal has banned the use of hazardous paints, and local Indian governments have started distributing lead-free paints to artisans at no cost to prevent heavy metal pollution.[82]

Animal sacrifice, symbolic sacrifice[edit]

Shakta Hindu communities mark the slaying of buffalo demon and victory of Durga with a symbolic or actual sacrifice. Most communities prefer symbolic sacrifice, where a statue of asura demon made of flour, or equivalent, is immolated and smeared with vermilion to remember the blood that had necessarily been spilled during the war.[69][83] Other substitutes include a vegetal or sweet dish considered equivalent to the animal.[84] In many cases, Shaktism devotees consider animal sacrifice distasteful, practice alternate means of expressing devotion while respecting the views of others in their tradition.[85]

In other communities, an actual animal is sacrificed, mainly at temples of Goddess such as Bhavani or Kali.[86] In Nepal, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, animal sacrifices are performed at Shakti temples, to mark the legend[87] of goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon. This involves slaying of a fowl, goat or a male water buffalo. This practice is rare among Hindus, outside the region of Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Assam.[88] Further, even in these states, the festival season is primarily when significant animal sacrifices are observed.[88]

The Rajput of Rajasthan worship their weapons and horses on Navaratri, and formerly offered a sacrifice of a goat to the goddess – a practice that continues in some places.[89][90] The ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage into manhood and readiness as a warrior. The ritual is directed by a priest.[91] The Kuldevi among these Rajput communities is a warrior-pativrata guardian goddess, with local legends tracing reverence for her during Rajput-Muslim wars.[92][citation needed]

Theme-based pujas and pandals[edit]

Two Durga Puja theme-based pandals in Kolkata

Months before the start of Durga Puja, youth members of a community organize as a team, collect donations, engage priests and artisans, buy votive materials and help build a theme-based stage called pandal. The Durga statue is designed from clay and clothes and colors by the commissioned artisans. The design and decoration is a team effort involving artists, architects and community representatives hosting it. The budget required for such theme-based pujas is significantly higher than traditional pujas. These attract crowds of visitors. The preparations and the building of pandals are a significant arts-related economic activity, often attracting major sponsors.[93]

The growth of competitiveness in theme pandals have escalated costs and scale of Durga Puja in eastern states of India. Some communities question the billboards, the economic competition behind the Durga Puja between communities, and seek return to basics.[94] The competition takes many forms, such as the height of statue. In 2015, an 88-foot statue of Durga in Kolkata's Deshapriya Park attracted numerous devotees, with some estimates placing visitors at one million.[95][96]

Media attention[edit]

Durga puja mood starts off with the Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour radio programme that has been popular with the community since the 1950s. While earlier it used to be conducted live, later a recorded version began to be broadcast. Bengalis traditionally wake up at 4 in the morning on Mahalaya day to listen to the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns from the scriptures from the Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi Path).[97]

TV and radio channels telecast Puja celebrations. Many Bengali/Assamese channels devote whole days to the Pujas. Bengali and Oriya weekly magazines bring out special issues for the Puja known as "Pujabarshiki" or "Sharadiya Sankhya". These contain the works of many writers both established and upcoming and are thus much bigger than the regular issues. Some notable examples are Anandamela, Shuktara, Desh, Sarodiya Anandabazar Patrika, Sananda, Nabakallol, Bartaman[98] All major local news publications are closed on the last day of the festivities.

Regional variations[edit]

There is enormous variation in worship practices and rituals associated with Durga Puja, as is the case with other Hindu festivals.[99] Hinduism accepts flexibility and leaves the set of practices to the choice of the individuals concerned. Different types of Durga Puja are readily practiced in the same neighborhood, as well as regionally, with these variations accepted across temples, pandals and within families.[100] The festival is most associated with Bengali Hindus, and even there the community grants freedom of variability and accepts differences. Some Puja are flamboyant, some are simple. There are differences in the Puja ambiances between theme-based pujas of cities and puja pandals of towns/villages, between family pujas and community (barowari) pujas of neighborhoods or apartments. [100]

Durga Kund Temple in Varanasi, a major Durga Puja venue.

The style and nature of the Puja varies from being Vedic, or Puranic, or Tantric, or a combination of these.[100] The Bengali Durga Puja typically combines all three. The non-Bengali Durga Puja tends to be essentially Vedic (srauta) wherein the melodies of Vedic hymns are sung, but it too incorporates esoteric elements making the Puja an example of a Vaidik-Tantric practice.[101]

Historical evidence suggests that the Durga Puja has evolved over time, becoming more elaborate, social and creative. The festival has been a domestic puja, a form of practice that remains popular. Durga Puja is also practiced in the sarvajanin (public) form, where communities get together, pool their resources and effort to set up pandals, lighting decorations, etc. and then celebrate the event as a mega-show to share.[102] The origins of the latter variation are unclear, with some evidence suggesting a family in Kolkatta revived this celebration in 1411 CE. Another set of sources suggest that a Bengali landlord named Kamsanarayan held a mega-show in 1583, or by others in late 16th century Bengal.[102] Yet, this festival of Bengal is likely much older with the discovery of 11th and 12th century Durga Puja manual manuscripts such as Durgotsavaviveka, Durgotsava Prayoga, Vasantaviveka and Kalaviveka.[103] The rituals associated with the Durga Puja migrated to other regions, from Bengal, such as those in Varanasi, a city that has historically attracted sponsorship from Hindus from various parts of the Indian subcontinent including Bengal.[104] In contemporary India, Durga Puja is celebrated in numerous styles and forms.[105]

West Bengal[edit]

Durga Idol in Ahiritola, Kolkata (2018).

Durga Puja is the biggest and most widely celebrated festival of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, and Odhisa.[106] It is held over a five-day period. The city is decked up with festive lights, loudspeakers play popular songs as well as recitation of mantras by priests, thousands of beautiful pandals ( temporary shrines made of bamboo in different architectural designs as per the theme and budget of organisers) are erected by communities in cities, towns and villages across the state, but particularly in Kolkata. The roads become overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of revellers, devotees, and pandal-hoppers visiting the pandals on Puja days. It creates a chaotic traffic condition despite all efforts of traffic and crowd management. Shops, eateries, restaurants stay open all night; fairs are set up and cultural programmes are held.[107] People form organizing committees, which plan and oversee the pandal (temporary shrine and stage) for the festivities. Today, Durga Puja has turned into a consumerist social carnival, biggest public spectacle and major art event riding on the wave of commercialisation, corporate sponsorship and craze for award-winning. For private domestic pujas, families dedicate an area of their homes known as Thakur dalan ('Thakur' meaning 'God' and 'dalan' as 'porch/space') for Durga Puja inside which the potters place Durga and then the dressers deck decorate it with home-dyed fabric, sola ornamentation and gold and silver foil decorations. Elaborate rituals like arati are performed and prasad is distributed after being offered to the gods. As a tradition, married daughters return to or revisit their parents and celebrate the Durga Puja together, a symbolism for goddess Durga who is believed to return to her parents’ home for the festival.[108]

Pictures depicting festival celebration in Patna style during the 18th century.
A Durga Puja procession painting from about 1800.

Durga Puja is a major gift-giving and shopping season in Bengal, with people buying gifts for not only the family members but also for close relatives and friends. New clothes are the traditional gift, and people wear them to go out together to visit countless Puja pandals. Some people go to the places of tourist attractions during the Puja holidays, while others return home from their workplaces to spend the festive days with their family members. [108] Beyond being a family, social and religious event, Durga Puja has also been a political theatre. Major regional and national political parties have sponsored and leveraged Durga Puja to spread their ideologies given the festival's importance to the culture of Bengali Hindus. It's a common trend amongst youngsters and even those who are older to go pandal-hopping and enjoy the celebrations.[109]

An image of Durga Devi Idol.This image is from Andal, a village in West Bengal.

The organizing committees of each pandal hires a purohita (priest) who performs the puja rituals on behalf of the community.[110] For the priests, the Durga Puja is a major time of activity, wherein he pursues the timely completion of a busy Vedic-Puranic-Tantric ritual sequence along timed to various offerings and fire oblations, in full public view, while the social festivities occur in parallel.[111] The complex rituals include periods of accurate and melodic scripture recitation. The third and fourth day of the Puja are increasingly complex, while hundreds of thousands of people visit to witness it. [112] On the day of Vijayadashami, the idols are carried out in grand immersion processions across Bengal and then the idols are ritually immersed into the rivers or waterbodies amid singing, water-throwing and fireworks. The immersion ceremony continues till a couple of days after. [113]

Colonial era immersion rituals[edit]

According to Claire Alexander and other scholars, the ritual of immersing Durga idol into river attracted the attention of colonial era travelers to the Bengal region from Europe, such as Garcin de Tassy and Emma Roberts. In 1831, Tassy reported that similar rituals were annually observed by Islamic community in Bengal as well. Shia Muslims observed Muharram over 10 days, took out processions in memory of their Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and then cast a memorial Imam's cenotaph into a river on the 10th day. Further, stated Tassy, the Muslim rituals included the same offerings at their annual festival in the memory of their Imam during Muharram, as the Hindus did during Durga Puja.[114] According to Aslam Syed, the immersion in water ritual by Hindus for Durga in Bengal, and Ganesh in the western states of India, may have grown because the Hindu leaders attempted to create a competing procession and immersion ritual to that of Islamic Muharram allowed by the colonial British government in the 19th and early 20th century.[115]


Nashik holds four major celebrations – including: the Government of India Press grounds organised by Nashik Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee which is the oldest and biggest; the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (H.A.L)in Ojhar; at Artillery Station, Deolali; the industrial area of Satpur-Ambad. In recent years, places such as CIDCO, Rajeevnagar, Panchavati, and Mahatmanagar also have set up Durga Puja mandals.[116]


Durga Puja in New Delhi, 2008

In 1910, a year before Delhi was declared the capital of British India, the first Sarbojanin (community) puja in Delhi was organised near Kashmiri Gate by a group of expatriate Bengalis, including the doctor Hemchandra Sen. This group became the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, popularly known as the "Kashmere Gate Puja".[117] The Timarpur puja (near Delhi University) started in 1914.[118]

In 2011, over 800 pujas were held in Delhi, with a few hundred more in Gurgaon and Noida.[119]


There were over 2500 community celebrations in Tripura as of 2013. Durga Puja began over 200 years ago at the Durgabari temple in Agartala, started by King Radha Kishore Manikya Bahadur.[120][121]

Other countries[edit]


Durga Puja is widely celebrated by Bangladesh's minority Hindu community. Some Bengali Muslims also take part in the pujo (Durga Puja).[122] In Dhaka, the Dhakeshwari Temple and mandaps attract numerous visitors and devotees, and on Vijaya Dashami, the immersion processions head to Sadarghat (Dhaka's river port), where the idols are immersed.[123]

Sri Lanka[edit]

Durga Puja started in Sri Lanka in 2014, by Colombo Durgotsav Cultural Organisation (CDCA). It is attended mainly by expat Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and local Tamils. Many Sinhalese Buddhists too attend the programs and pujas in this annual cultural confluence festival held at New Kathireshan Hall, Bambalapitiya, Colombo.

China and Hong Kong[edit]

In the recent past, Durga Puja celebrations and festivities were also started in Hong Kong by the Bengali diaspora.[124]


Durga Puja in Nepal is called Dashain.[3][7]

United States[edit]

Durga Puja is organized by some Bengali communities in the United States.[125]


Durga puja pandal in Germany (2009)

Durga Puja is organised by Bengali communities in Europe. Although pandals are not constructed, the sculptures are imported from India. According to BBC News, for community celebrations in London in 2006, these "idols, belonging to a tableau measuring 18ft by 20ft, were made from clay, straw and vegetable dyes". At the end of the Durga Puja, these were immersed in River Thames, for the first time in 2006, after "the community was allowed to give a traditional send-off to the deities by London's port authorities". The Bengali community stated, per the BBC News report, that the immersion ceremony "is a very sentimental issue for us, everybody wanted to see the idols being given a proper immersion".[126]

In Germany, Durgapuja is celebrated in several cities across the country. Some of the top mentions are "Duesseldorf Durgapuja", who have been celebrating this since 2012 with the same zeal and vigour as in India. The Indische Gemeinde Duesseldorf is the organization which manages this 4-day extravaganza with voluntary support from members of the club and first-time visitors alike. The event consists of performing all rituals to the book, Prasad after the puja, Indian Lunch, Dinner and snacks every day for all visitors, Cultural programmes from members of the club as well as by performing artists flown out of India, and Sandhya Arati (Evening worship) along with the Dhak (traditional drum) and kansor (traditional metal disc).[127] The biggest Durga Puja in Germany is celebrated in Cologne Durga puja.[128] It is also celebrated in Munich, Berlin, and other German cities.

In Switzerland, the 'Swisspuja'[129] group based in Baden, Aargau, in northern Switzerland, has been celebrating Durga Puja since 2003.

In Sweden, Durgapuja is celebrated in many places like Stockholm and Helsingborg. A group 'Bengali Cultural Society - South Sweden (BCSOFSS)'[130] based on Helsingborg has started Durgapuja since 2017.

Durga Puja by Holland-e-Hoichoi in Amstelveen, Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Durga Puja is celebrated in several places like Amstelveen, Eindhoven, and Voorschoten. Bengali community 'Holland-e-Hoichoi'[131] and 'Anandadhara Netherlands'[132] has started Durga Puja in Amstelveen (close to Amsterdam) since 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging victorious over the vicious.[14]
  2. ^ It appears in Khila (appendix, supplementary) text to Rigveda 10.127, 4th Adhyaya, per J. Scheftelowitz.[30]
  3. ^ In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging victorious over the vicious.[14]
  4. ^ Various versions of Devi mantra exist.[60] Examples include: [a] "We know the Great Goddess. We make a meditation of the goddess Durga. May that Goddess guide us on the right path. (Durga Gayatri Mantra, recited at many stages of Durga puja);[61] [b] Hrim! O blessed goddess Durga, come here, stay here, stay here, take up residence here, accept my worship. (Durga Avahana Mantra);[62] etc.


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  14. ^ a b June McDaniel 2004, pp. 20-21, 217-219.
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  27. ^ "Bommai-kolu", Durga-puja.org
  28. ^ a b Monier Monier Williams (1899), Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 487
  29. ^ Maurice Bloomfield (1906), A Vedic concordance, Series editor: Charles Lanman, Harvard University Press, page 486;
    Example Sanskrit original: "अहन्निन्द्रो अदहदग्निरिन्दो पुरा दस्यून्मध्यंदिनादभीके । दुर्गे दुरोणे क्रत्वा न यातां पुरू सहस्रा शर्वा नि बर्हीत् ॥३॥ – Rigveda 4.28.8, Wikisource
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  77. ^ Vikas Khanna (2015). Indian Harvest: Classic and Contemporary Vegetarian Dishes. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-63286-200-6.
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  118. ^ Sidhartha Roy (6 July 2011). "Making Delhi their own, religiously". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2011. on the early history of Durga puja in Delhi
  119. ^ "Bamboo barricading in Yamuna to check water pollution". The Daily Pioneer. 4 October 2011. more than 1000 sculptures are immersed in the Yamuna alone
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  122. ^ Salil Tripathi (2016). The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and Its Unquiet Legacy. Yale University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-300-21818-3., Quote: "The intertwining of cultural traditions reinforced a society which was tolerant and the faiths borrowed from each other. (...) Many Bangladeshi Muslim women wear saris and bindis, or teeps, the dot on their forehead, usually seen only among Hindu women; they celebrate pujo, a Hindu festival for the goddess Durga, and they have no hesitation ushering in Poyla Baisakh, to celebrate the Bengali new year."
  123. ^ Ellen London (2004). Bangladesh. Gareth Stevens. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8368-3107-8.
  124. ^ "The HKyantoyan The Hong Kong Indian Lifestyle Portal".
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  127. ^ http://duesseldorf-durgapuja.de/
  128. ^ http://www.durgapuja.de/
  129. ^ "Durga Puja in Switzerland". www.swisspuja.org. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  130. ^ Durgapuja in Helsingborg
  131. ^ Holland-e-Hoichoi
  132. ^ [1]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]