Before we look at Durga puja, lets first define who Goddess Durga is? Hindu mythology is rife with multifaceted gods and goddesses who represent various aspects of life and the universe. Among the vast pantheon, Goddess Durga holds a prominent place as the embodiment of Shakti – the cosmic female power. Durga, revered as the Mother Goddess, symbolises power, courage, righteousness, and compassion.

She is depicted as a ten-armed goddess, each hand wielding a different weapon, riding a lion or a tiger, symbolising her immense power and will. Mythology holds that Durga was created by the combined powers of all gods to defeat the invincible buffalo demon, Mahishasura, an embodiment of evil and ignorance.

What is a Puja?

‘Puja’ in Sanskrit signifies reverence, honour, homage, adoration, or worship. In the Hindu religious context, a Puja is a set of ritualistic practices performed to pay respect and homage to one or more deities or to host, honour, and worship one or more deities. The rituals may involve offerings of flowers, fruits, food (Prasad), incense, and lamps, accompanied by mantras and prayers.

Durga Puja: The main festivals

Durga Puja, also referred to as Durgotsava or Sharadotsav in different regions, is the most significant festival dedicated to Goddess Durga. This annual celebration spans over ten days, falling in the Hindu month of Ashwin (between September and October), culminating in the final days corresponding to Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Vijayadashami.

These days correspond to the epic battle between Durga and Mahishasura and ends with the goddess’s victory on Vijayadashami. Durga Puja during this period is a grand cultural and social event in many parts of India, especially in West Bengal, with numerous artistic performances, fairs, processions, and dances.

Another significant Durga festival is the Basant Panchami or Vasant Panchami, falling in late January or early February, marking the arrival of spring. This occasion is often associated with Saraswati Puja, but some regions also celebrate it as Durga Puja, acknowledging her as the deity of power that drives away the winter’s darkness.

Performing Durga puja at home

Although Durga Puja is often celebrated communally with grandeur, it can also be a deeply personal and spiritual event when performed at home. The following steps outline a simplified procedure for performing Durga Puja:

  1. Clean your house and set up an altar or a clean space for the puja.
  2. Place an idol or a picture of Goddess Durga on the altar.
  3. Light a lamp and incense sticks.
  4. Offer flowers, fruits, sweets, and other offerings to the Goddess.
  5. Chant Durga mantras or stotras like ‘Durga Chalisa,’ ‘Durga Saptashati,’ or simply the universal ‘Om Dum Durgayei Namaha’.
  6. Perform ‘aarti’ – a ritual involving circling a lamp in front of the deity.
  7. Meditate, seeking Durga’s blessings and expressing gratitude.

Note: It is advisable to consult with a learned person or a priest to guide you through the detailed and traditional process.

Benefits of Durga Puja

  1. Spiritual Growth: Engaging in rituals like Durga Puja can focus the mind on the divine, facilitating a connection with higher consciousness. This paves the way for inner peace and spiritual development.
  2. Emotional Wellbeing: The communal celebration of Durga Puja helps in forging stronger social bonds, creating a sense of belonging and companionship. This can have a positive impact on emotional health, reducing feelings of loneliness and alienation.
  3. Mental Resilience: The tale of Durga defeating Mahishasura is an allegory for the triumph of good over evil. Participating in the Puja can help imbibe the strength and courage represented by Durga, thereby encouraging mental resilience.
  4. Gratitude and Humility: Offering prayers and performing rituals serve as reminders of the greater powers in the universe, fostering a sense of gratitude and humility, which can contribute to overall personal growth and contentment.
  5. Culture and Tradition: Durga Puja helps keep alive the rich heritage of Indian mythology and culture. It provides an opportunity to pass down traditions and cultural values to younger generations.
  6. Stress Relief: In the modern, fast-paced world, taking time out to engage in rituals can provide a much-needed respite, helping alleviate stress and promoting relaxation and mental peace.
  7. Discipline and Focus: Regular rituals and Pujas require a certain level of discipline and focus, qualities that can be beneficial in all spheres of life.

In summary

Durga Puja is a luminous event that illuminates the cultural, social, and spiritual landscape of Hindu tradition. Celebrating the victorious Goddess Durga, this annual occasion fosters a sense of community, reinforces cultural heritage, and ignites individual spiritual development. Whether performed amidst the vivacity of a community gathering or the tranquillity of a home, Durga Puja imparts invaluable life lessons in resilience, humility, and gratitude. This ritual transcends the realm of religious observance, emerging as a haven of mental tranquillity in the modern whirlwind of life. Above all, Durga Puja reaffirms the inherent power within us to overcome adversities, mirroring the divine strength of the Mother Goddess. As such, Durga Puja remains an enduring symbol of humanity’s unyielding spirit and the innate divinity that shapes our existence.

*Bhakti Marga run Puja Courses both online and in-person – please contact us to learn more.