If there is a cliché that resonates with Bongs as much as Rosogolla, it is Durga Puja. Come Autumn, Bengalis across the world come together in the celebration of the Goddess of Power, Durga! While the premise of this phenomenon is religion, Durga Puja is hardly just another religious festival. It is a cultural extravaganza that manifests as the glue that binds the Bengali community together. If you are a Bengali, you might wonder whether anything about Durga Puja can surprise you after all these years. You might be in for a treat. Here is an interesting list of the lesser known trivia about Durga Puja that will, most definitely, give you an edge in the “para” Pujo quiz contest!
Trivia #1: Durga Pujo is not exactly supposed to be in Autumn
Bengalis worship Goddess Durga in the Hindu month of Aashwin (around October) when mellow sunshine ligers on green meadows, and cotton-candy clouds roam in the clear blue skies. But, according to Hindu scriptures, Goddess Durga was traditionally worshipped in the Spring.
The Bengalis refer to this deviation as Akaal Bodhon (literally translated as Untimely Worship).
Some believe that the Akaal Bodhon originated from the times of Ayodhya’s king Ramaa, who wanted to get the blessings of the Goddess, before his infamous battle with Ravana, the Lanka king who had abducted his wife.
There are many other stories explaining the untimely festivities. One theory ascribes it to how King Surath invoked the Devi in autumn to help regain his kingdom. Another states that Samadhi Vaishya had done the same to attain Brahmagyan (Ultimate Knowledge).
But, Bengali folklore believes in the legend that Lord Indra, the King of Gods, pleaded with the Tridevs to wake Durga in autumn to slay Lord Mahishasura.
Trivia #2: Thank the Twelve Friends of Hooghly for making Durga Pujo a community affair
The first recorded history of the Durga Puja in Bengal dates back to 1500s. But, these Pujos were private affairs of affluent Zamindars (landlords).
In 1790, 12 Brahmin friends in Gooptipara, Hooghly, decided to institute a community worship of the Goddess. Their effort is what initiated the Baarowari pujo (Baaro – twelve, Yaari – friendly assembly).
Later, in 1910, the Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha organized the first truly community puja, the Sarbajanin Pujo, in Baghbazaar in Kolkata.
Trivia #3: The famous Daaker Saaj has German roots
Many of us are fond of the famous Daaker Saaj embellishment on Durga idols. In this style, the idol is decorated with the white core of the Shola (thermocol) reed with beaten silver (Rangta) for a touch of glamour.
The silver used in the production of this decorative of the idols were imported from Germany via post or Daak.
Hence, the intriguing name – Daaker Saaj.
Trivia #4: The beautiful Sandhi Puja is not for Devi Durga, technically
Sandhi Puja, an integral part of Akaal Bodhon, is performed at the juncture of the 8th (Ashtami) and the 9th (Navami) lunar day in the month of Ashwin. The ritual that covers the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and first 24 minutes of Navami, actually worships the Chamunda form of Devi Durga.
Legend says that while Durga was engaged in a battle with Mahishasura, his generals – Chando and Mundo, attacked the Goddess from the rear. Durga is believed to have turned blue in anger and from her third eye was born Chamunda, the Goddess with a bloody tongue and bloodshot eyes.
It was at the Sandhikkan, that Chamunda attacked and killed the two cowardly generals. The beautiful ritual of Sandhi Puja is in Her honor.
Trivia #5: You cannot worship Durga, without worshipping her Eight Eternal Companions
Devi Durga is deeply committed to her Eight Eternal Companions, the Ashtanayika.
These divine ladies are Mangala, Vijaya, Bhadra, Jayanti, Aparajita, Nandini, and Koumari.
Any priest who wants to worship the Goddess needs to chant a mantra that advises the worshipper to meditate on the Devi as always accompanied by her powerful playmates. Such is the devotion of the Goddess to Her Sakhis.
So, now you know some intriguing details about the Pujo. It is time to flaunt your Durga Pujo expertise to impress someone at the Pandal.
Do you know other interesting trivia about Durga Puja that you would like to share? Please comment below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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