Durga Puja Dates 2016
7-11 October 2016
- Maha Sasthi- Friday 7 October, 2016
- Maha Saptami- Saturday 8 October, 2016
- Maha Astami- Sunday 9 October, 2016
- Maha Nabami- Monday 10 October, 2016
- Maha Dasami- Tuesday 11 October, 2016
Durga Puja is the most dear and biggest festival of Bengal. Durga Pujo (দুর্গা পুজো ) or simply ‘Pujo’, as it is called in Bengal, is one of the important aspect of a common Bengali without which life seems to be incomplete! Durga Puja is a way of life for a Bengali. The statement might look an exaggeration but it is a fact- Durga Puja is not only a religious festival for a Bengali, it is also a major, in fact, biggest socio-cultural-artistic festival of Bengal. During Durga Puja, the life of people here comes to a standstill for 5 days and everything becomes ‘Durgmoyee’ (indulged in Durga)! So, what is it? What is Durga Puja?
What is Durga Puja?
Durga Puja is a festival to worship ‘Maa Durga’- the Goddess Durga revered as Mother of all. It is the biggest festival of West Bengal where it is also referred to as Durgotsava (দুর্গোত্সব ), Akalbodhan (অকালবোধন ), Sharadiya Pujo (শারদীয পুজো ), Sharadotsab ( শারদোত্সব ), Maayer Pujo (মাযের পুজো ) or just Pujo (পুজো ). This festival of Goddess Durga is celebrated for five days on Maha Shasthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijaya Dashami (বিজযা দশমী ) though the festival begins on the day of Mahalaya itself. Durga Pooja or worship of Goddess Durga is also done by celebrating Navaratri in North and West India but when the term ‘Durga Puja’ is used, one invariably remembers the festival of Durga in Bengal where the Goddess is worshipped in her ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ avatar- the form of Durga when she killed the demon king Mahishasur and saved her followers! It is also believed that Maa Durga visits her parental home with her family once a year and that’s the occasion of Durga Puja.
When is Durga Puja Celebrated?
Durga Puja Dates 2016 – Durga Puja this year, will be celebrated during 7-11 October 2016.
Mahalaya date 2016 falls on 30 September 2016
Durga Puja is a five days affair and is celebrated in the season of ‘Sharad’ (शरद) or Autumn. Thus the name Sharadiya Durga Puja. The actual dates of Durga Puja fall in the Bengali calender months of Ashin/Kartik that corresponds with September/October. The fortnight when Durga Puja is celebrated is called Devi Paksha (দেবীপক্ষ) or the Fortnight of the Goddess. Devi Paksha begins on the first day after the Pitra Paksha or the Fortnight of the Forefathers. The last day of Pitra Paksha is the day of Mahalaya (মহালয়া) which marks the beginning of Durga Puja. Mahalaya is a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to come to the earth through ‘Agomoni’ (আগমনী – Invocation). This is done by chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs like “Jago Durga, Jago Tumi Jago”.
After Mahalaya, the sixth day of Devi Paksha or the Maha Sashthi (মহাশ্ষ্ঠী) marks the beginning of the rituals of Durga Puja through Akalbodhan puja where ‘Akal’ means untimely and ‘Bodhan’ means awakening. This is done because it is believed that traditionally Basanti Durga Puja in Spring season is the timely worshipping of the Goddess and Durga is awakened untimely during Sharsdiya Puja. With this starts the Durga Puja festival which lasts for five days. These five days of Durga Puja are Maha Sashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijaya Dashami or Vijaya Dashami which is celebrated as Dussehra all over India. Devi Paksha ends on the full moon day when Kojagori Lokkhi Pujo (কোজাগরী লক্কী পুজো – Lakshmi Puja) is celebrated in every household of Bengal.
How is Durga Puja Celebrated?
Durga Puja celebrations begin months before the five grand days of Durga Puja with the artisans making equally grand idols of Maa Durga and her family which includes Gods Ganesha and Kartik and Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. As Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura, an idol of Mahishasura also finds place in the groups of idols but he is shown at the feet of the Goddess Durga who is depicted as killing the demon king.
On Maha Sashti, ‘Akal Bodhon’ ritual is conducted which marks the unveiling of the face of the idol of Durga and awakening her. Other rituals marking the beginning of five day long worship are also conducted. There are separate rituals for each day of Durga Puja namely Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Maha Navami also that are followed with great religious sanctity.
On the tenth day of Bijaya Dashami, the idols of Goddess Durga and the other idols of Gods and Goddesses are taken in procession to the nearby rivers or other water bodies and immeresed therein with the hope that Maa Durga will come next year with all her blessings. The huge crowd shouts slogans like ‘Aasche Bocchhor Aabar Hobe’ (It will happen again next year!) The whole environment reverberates with joy, enthusiasm, and sounds of ‘dhak’ (ঢাক) and a little sadness too as their Maa Durga leaves them to return only after a year.
It is not only the worship and rituals that keep the Bengali people engaged during Durga Puja but also the cultural and social exchanges that keep them busy and full of joy and enthusiasm. Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp and show with huge and artistically decorated Pandals established with collected efforts of local communities. In Kolkata, many competetions are organized and winners declared for best decorated Pandals. These Pandals are decorated on various themes every year ranging from cultural to current affairs. There are hundreds of Pandals in Kolkata city and one of the major activities after doing puja is to visit famous pandals of the city. People go around the city whole day and whole night to visit these Durga Pandals. To get the actual feel of how Durga Puja is a grand affair in Kolkata, read Durga Puja in Kolkata!
On the cultural front, many programmes of music, dance, drama etc. are organized and people participate as well as enjoy these cultural shows in the evenings on all the four days from sixth to ninth day. After Bijaya Dashami, one of the social obligations of Bengalis is to visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and seek blessings from elders. People go to the homes of friends and relatives with sweets. They touch feet of elders to take their blessings and do ‘Kolakoli’ ( কোলাকোলী hug same aged people) greeting them ‘Shubho Bijoya’ (শুভ বিজযা – Happy Bijaya). They make phone calls and send sms, greeting cards with ‘Shubho Bijoya’ messages to their friends and relatives who stay in other places. Not to forget the special bengali dishes that are prepared and had with great enthusiasm. These include a wide variety of fish dishes, vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes, sweets etc. On Biyaya Dashami day, a dish made with ‘Joda Ilish’ (Pair of Ilish or Hilsa fish) is made in Bengali homes as a ritual.