What Is Durga Puja?

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By Ranen Acharyya

The worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga is an annual Hindu festival celebrated all over the world. Durga, meaning power “one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress,” Puja meaning, “worship.”

The worship of Durga in the autumn is the year’s largest Hindu festival celebrated all over the world. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar. The beginning of Durga Puja is called Debi Pokho (Mahalaya) and the Puja ends with the worship of Goddess Lakshmi on Kojagori (full moon night). Festival worship of the Goddess Durga lasts six days. The six days observed are referred to as: Mahalaya, Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Astami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dasshmi.

All Bengalis celebrate Durga Puja with the exchange of new clothes and other gifts as well as social and cultural functions. Bengalis living abroad (small groups and large groups from big cities and smaller cities all over the world) take the time to import idols from India for this most festive of occasions and celebrate. Although it is a Hindu celebration, Durga Puja is enjoyed like a festival, where people from all backgrounds, regardless of their religious beliefs, participate and enjoy them and receive blessings.