Kolkata, Oct 15: Durga Puja rituals began in West Bengal on Monday as enthusiastic devotees plunged into merriment marking the first day of the biggest festival in this part of the world.
‘Sasthi’ or ‘Bodhan’ — the welcoming of the Durga idols — signalled the commencement of the five-day puja as the eastern metropolis welcomed its patron goddess to beats of dhaak (drums) and aroma of incense.
Armed with mobile apps, special arrangement by West Bengal Transport Development Corporation for puja parikrama (pandal hopping), printed guide maps, denizens and tourists — cutting across age and class barriers — hit the streets here and in towns across districts, making rounds of different marquees under tight security arrangements.
Cyclone Titli timed its departure perfectly with the beginning of the ‘Sharod Utsav’ (autumnal festivities). There is no forecast of rain.
The carnival-like atmosphere began early with many prominent pujas throwing their marquees open to the public in advance from Mahalaya, the beginning of Devi Paksha.
Along with the greetings of “Shubho Sharadiya” via social media and messengers as also the traditional “namaskara, the chants of “Jai Durga” and “Bolo Durga Mai Ki Jai” reverberated across the state with every city, small town and village joining in the fervour.
The puja is usually a five-day event with Sasthi, and the subsequent four days — Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami — translating into frenzied pandal-hopping (visiting marquees) in new clothes, meeting friends and family and stuffing oneself with traditional delicacies.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished people on Sasthi via a social media message.
Sasthi — the sixth day of the lunar calendar — began in some community pujas on Sunday evening according to ‘tithi’.
Kalparamvo (the beginning of the Puja), Bodhan (the consecration of Ma Durga’s idol), Amantran (inviting the Goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the Goddess in the exact spot where the puja is being held) — were performed in community puja marquees and households where the deity is being worshipped with zeal.
According to the epic Ramayana, before attacking Ravana in Lanka to free his wife Sita, Lord Rama had performed Durga Puja in autumn — a time when the gods sleep, according to the Hindu religious texts.
Rama had to first awaken the goddess prematurely, and as such, the awakening in the autumnal festival is called “Akal (untimely) Bodhan”.
However, mythology also states that the puja celebrates the annual descent of Goddess Durga, the slayer of the demon Mahishashur, accompanied by her four children — Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati — on Earth to visit her parents.
The goddess, astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her ten hands, stays for four days to eradicate all evil from Earth before returning to her husband Lord Shiva in Kailash on Dashami.