Friday, October 9, 2009

Durga Puja...the mythology...the rituals - part 3

On the sixth day after the Mahalaya, better known as Maha Shasthi, the Durga Puja actually starts. Early morning a ritual is done which is mainly the act of making a Sankalp (sacred intention), a firm determination to conduct the Puja properly over the next three days. The ritual consists of installing the ghata (a copper pot filled with water) at a corner of the Durga Mandap(place of the Puja) & offering to the Devi. Later in the evening, when the sun is setting, Bodhan(awakening) is done. The Hindu mythology says that, all the Gods & the Goddesses go to sleep for six months during the southward journey of the Sun. Hence it is essential to awaken the diety. As mentioned earlier, this was done by Ram for the first time, when he was going to war with Ravan. The ritual of Bodhan consists of installing a water filled copper vessel, with a small branch of Bel leaves(a sacred tree) at the diety, & praying for the Divine Mother to awaken. After Bodhan, follows Adhivas & Amantran. Adhivas means invocation, as after the Devi has been awakened, she needs to be invoked in the water filled copper pot with Bel plant. This is also a ritual of sanctifying the Puja Mandap. So first the Devi is worshipped & invoked in the Bel. After that, twenty six mangalik dravyas ( sacramental objects) as per Vidhi(rituals), are sanctified by touching them with the Devi invoked Bel. Then to ward off any evil effects, a red thread is tied around the altar where the Puja would happen over the next three days. This is followed by Amantran(invitation), through which, the Devi is formally invited to accept the Puja from the next day. Devi is then worshipped with five items & Aarati(recitals with a multi headed lamp, lit with cotton ends doused in oil) is done. The ritual is normally celebrated with ladies putting up stalls of home cooked eateries, which the crowd assembled enjoy thoroughly.

On the seventh day, Maha Saptami, Puja starts in the morning with invocation. On the sixth day, Devi was invoked in the Bel. On the seventh day, the Devi is invoked in a group of nine plants, which are bundled together, known as ‘NavaPatrika’. It is believed that it is through a living medium that the Divinity manifests itself. So these nine plants, which also includes a branch of the Bel, are bundled together, give a ceremonial bath & covered with an orange cloth & installed on a wooden seat on the right side of the image of Goddess Durga. This is followed by Pran Pratishtha, through which it is believed that Devi Durga has come to life on the mandap. This is then followed by worshipping the Devi with sixteen items. The other deities & other objects associated with the Devi are then worshipped. This is followed by Pushpanjali (offerings through flowers & sacred mantras), where everyone gathers around the diety with flowers in hands & prayers(normally recited by Thakoor Moshai(the priest, who conducts the Puja). The Puja is concluded with Bhog(food offerings), which is then distributed amongst the devotees who gather. The evening, is normally another round of Pujas followed by Aarati done on wooden cups filled with narkel chobra(the dry fibrous husk, outer covering of a Cocunut). These are lit up & with karpur(camphor) & dhoop materials added, it creates quite a smoke(considered to be auspicious & healthy). Devotees pick up these hot cups & dance in tandem to the beats of the Dhak(traditional drums) & kashor ghanta(traditional copper heads, which are banged with a wooden spatula). It really is a sight to watch.

The next day is Maha Ashtami, considered by many as the main day of Puja. This day also, the ceremonial bath takes place which is again followed by worshipping the Devi with sixteen items. After this nine small pots are with flags of different colours are installed & the Nine Shaktis are invoked. After this various rounds of Pujas are done on Yoginis(mythical characters). This is followed by the worship of Nava Durga(nine aspects of Durga). Next comes the worship of Jayanti, Mangala, Kali, Bhadrakali, Kapalini, Durga, Shiva, Kshama, Dhatri, Svaha & Svadha…..various forms of the Devi. The Pujas are quite elaborate on this day. At some Puja mandaps, there is also a ritual of Kumari Puja, where young girls are treated as a Devi & worshipped, with a belief that the Devi manifests herself in a pure hearted girl. This is followed by Pushpanjali, which is considered to be the most auspicious of all the days. Normally, devotees keep fast till they have offered pushpanjali. Bhog follows & devotees rejoice in eating to their hearts content. This delicious food offerings is normally a piping hot traditional preparation of rice & pulses accompanied with an assortment of vegetables along with chatni & payesh(a traditional sweet preparation). This continues till quite late in the afternoon. Evening witnesses Aarati again to the rhythmic beating of Dhak & Kashor Ghanta. Towards the midnight, the last 24 minutes of Maha Ashtami & the first 24 minutes of Maha Navami( 48 minutes between two lunar days), Sandhi Puja takes place. This period is considered to be very auspicious. At this time the Devi is worshipped at Chamunda(as Kali, Devi had killed the demons Chanda & Munda). This puja is considered to be the most important ritual of the whole Puja. In earlier times, at some places, a goat was being sacrificed(Patha Boli) on the altar as a ritual, but now that has been stopped. Alternatively a fruit, (normally a banana) is being put up for sacrifice as a ritual.

Next day is Maha Navami, the ninth day. The usual rituals like previous days continue, as the Puja reaches towards its end. Homas, with Vedic chnatings are performed along with offerings of vegetables like white pumpkin & sugarcane. The pushpanjali, bhog etc continue as usual. The drum beats are more regular on this day, as the devotees start to realize that the event is nearing its end.

The last day, is Vijaya Dashami. The day starts, with a small puja followed by Shital Bhog(cool food offerings), which is a mixture of yogurt & puffed rice along with bananas & batasha(sugar candies). Later, ladies, especially married women, get to the stage, offer to the Devi sindoor, kumkum & sweets & then play within themselves. After this the priest & the tantradharak perform the Visarjan ritual. In this, the Devi who had been invoked in the Navapatrika, is entreated to return to her celestial abode. The devotees, towards the afternoon gather & take the Idols & the Navapatrika in a procession to any nearby river or lake & immerse the idols, as a ritual of the Devi returning to her heavenly abode. “Aashche bochor abar hobe……Durga Mai ki Jai” (we shall celebrate again next year………Hail to victory Goddess Mother Durga), chants render at the top of the voices. After the immersion, some water is collected from the river & brought back to the Puja spot, where it is sprinkled on the devotees. This water is called Shanti Jal ( water that brings peace & happiness). People them embrace each other in greetings. The young touch the feet of the elders & then embrace wishing each other “Shubho Bijoya”. This ritual continues till Kali Puja (for about a fortnight), where people visit each other’s homes & wish Shubho Bijoya along with sweets, mostly home made.

4 comments:

gayatri bhadkamkar said...

Must say very well explained the Puja plus the rituals part of it! Looking forward to stories..

Anonymous said...

aapne bahut bariki se bataya hai durga puja ke bare me.u.p ke log our achhi tarah samajh payege.good

Anonymous said...

aapne bahut bariki se bataya hai durga puja ke bare me.u.p ke log our achhi tarah samajh payege.good

Anonymous said...

can a non brahmin cook the anna bhog offered to the devi. why this casteism?