The durga Puja is the greatest festival of Hindus of Bengal. It takes place twice a year; once in the Bengali month of chaitra, and again in the month of aswin or kartick, the former is called the Puja, or the Puja held in spring, and the latter is called the saradiya Puja, or the Puja held in autumn. The basanti Puja celebrates the original worship of the Puja held in autumn. The Basanti Puja celebrates the original worship of the goddess by which king suratha was restored to this lost throne in the satya juga or the golden age. The other Puja was first performed untimely by Sri ram Chandra in the next age to get the help of the goddess in killing raven. Though it was untimely and, hence, irregular, it has now so completely ousted the original Puja, that when we speak of durga Puja or, even simple Puja, we mean this autumnal worship. While it means the longest holidays in the year, the other is not honored even with a single day’s holiday.
Durga is the symbol of power or, power. She appeared to kill the demon mahisasura who ad become so powerful as almost threaten the very creation. She is represented as riding a lion, fighting with the demon with ten different weapons in her ten hands. One of her feet is on the back of the lion and the other is on the shoulder of the enemy, who is half emerging out of buffale, just slain. On her left are saraswati, the goddess of fortune and ganesh, the elephant-headed god go wisdom and success.
Oh the evening of the 6th day of the moon in aswin or kartick is performed the bodhana ceremony, i.e, the ceremony of rousing the goddess from her sleep. The real Puja, however, begins the next day, called the sptami, and continues for three days. Besides offerings of flowers, fruits, rice, etc., he-goats and even buffaloes are sacrificed on these days. The 10th day of the moon is called the bijoya dashami because of the day everybody takes leave of the goddess, after which the image, or rather the images, are immersed in water with great festivities. This immersion ceremony is usually performed in some river close by where all the images near about are brought together in separate processions, and thousands of people assemble to see the sight. After immersion santijal, or the water of peace, are sprinkled upon everybody present and the people embrace one another as a token of friendliness. All enmity and ill feeling are forgotten-even the bitterest enemies close in embrace, and there reigned, at least for the time being, a feeling of peace and fellowship in every heart.
As already stated, the durga Puja is the most important festival in Bengal. The longest holidays of the year enable everybody living away. From his relatives to return to them, while many use the vacation in trips to places of interest or health resorts. Indeed, so great is the rush of passages that, though railway and steamer companies run a number of specials, every train and every steamer is packed almost suffocation.
It is customary for every Hindu, however poor, to wear new clothes and to make presents to his near and dear ones at this time. Tradesmen therefore, have a very busy time of it on the occasion, their shops being always crowded with purchasers. The faces of children shine with joy in new garments, while those of elderly people look cheerful in the company of their children and other relatives who usually live away from them. In short, the Puja is a festival that may well said to bring universal joy and rejoicing Bengal.