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Durga puja (pronounced Bengali: দুর্গা পূজা ,Odia: ଦୁର୍ଗା ପୂଜା ,‘Worship of Durga’), also referred to as Durgotsava (Bengali: দুর্গোৎসব, ‘Festival of Durga’), is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga.
It refers to all the ten days observed as Mahalaya,prothomä",“ditriya”,“tritiya”,“chaturthi”,“panchami”, Shashthi , Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijoya Dashami. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar and the fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Devi Paksha (Bengali:দেবী পক্ষ , ‘Fortnight of the Goddess’). Devi Paksha is preceded by Mahalaya (Bengali: মহালয়া), the last day of the previous fortnight Pitri Pokkho (Bengali: পিতৃ পক্ষ, ‘Fortnight of the Forefathers’), and is ended on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja (Bengali: কোজাগরী লক্ষ্মী পূজা, ‘Worship of Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori Full Moon Night’).
Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tripura where it is a five-day annual holiday. In West Bengal and Tripura which has majority of Bengali Hindus it is the biggest festival of the year. Not only is it the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout the State, but it is also the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali society. Apart from eastern India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal and in Bangladesh where 10% population are Hindu.
Nowadays, many diaspora Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.
The prominence of Durga Puja increased gradually during the British Raj in Bengal. After the Hindu reformists identified Durga with India, she became an icon for the Indian independence movement. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the tradition of Baroyari or Community Puja was popularised due to this. After independence, Durga Puja became one of the largest celebrated festivals in the whole world.
Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, who is Durga’s husband, and worship of a banana tree/kala ganch is also done (a banana tree is considered to be the wife of lord Ganesha and is called “kala bou”) in addition to Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, who are considered to be Durga’s children. Modern traditions have come to include the display of decorated pandals and artistically depicted idols (murti) of Durga, exchange of Bijoya greetings and publication of Puja Annuals.
July 22nd, 2013
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