India is a potpourri of various cultures where people from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate a myriad of festivals. Everything — from food to attire — varies from state to state. Hence, the way festivals are celebrated, too, differs, along with customs and rituals. However, one thing remains unchanged — the devotion to gods and goddesses and the joy these festivities bring along. Adding to that, here is how different states celebrate Durga Puja while proving that their devotion to the goddess is the same. By Priyanka Lamba
Durga Puja and Navaratri are similar festivals celebrated in different ways across the nation. Both festivals signify the removal of darkness and the triumph of good over evil.
Although the Hindu festival revolves around worshipping various forms of Goddess Durga, it is a nine-day celebration of Lord Rama’s win over Lankan demon king Ravana. Additionally, Durga Puja marks the victory of the Goddess over the demon Mahishasura. Moreover, the festival is majorly celebrated in the East and Navaratri mainly in other parts of the country. And, the ways to worship Goddess Durga also differ — while some devotees prefer to feast, others fast.
This year, Navaratri begins on September 26 and ends on the fifth of the following month. Meanwhile, Durga Puja is to be celebrated from October 1. Marking the end of the festivities, Dussehra or Vijayadashami is falling on October 5.
As the festive season draws closer, the streets of various cities are decked up to welcome the divine in all her glory with enthusiasm and positive vibes.
Be it stage and pandal decorations, planning cultural fests, dancing the night away or preparing elaborate meals for devotees (bhog), all become part of the festivities that lead to worshipping the goddess. In some states the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in water on the 10th day (visarjan), while others celebrate Dussehra by burning the effigies of demons, including Ravana, Kumbhkarana and Meghanada.
Over the last couple of years, Durga puja celebrations bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced state governments to implement a slew of restrictions on holding processions and visiting pandals, among other rules. However, no such guidelines have been issued yet by governing bodies this year, but organising committees of pandals might have basic rules like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Here’s how different Indian states celebrate Durga Puja and pay obeisance to the goddess
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Durga Puja is one of the most-awaited events in West Bengal. Preparations to welcome Goddess Durga, who is often referred as Maa, or mother, begin about a month before the scheduled date. While the streets of Kolkata are lit up with elaborate lighting during the night, magnificent pandals and ornate idols are set up at various places across the state. Flocking to Durga Puja pandals, dancing to the tunes of dhak (a percussion instrument) and feasting on scrumptious bhog are part of the celebrations.
One of the most significant events marking the last day of the Durga Puja festival is Sindoor Khela where married Bengali women usually smear vermilion or sindoor on each other’s faces. This takes place after bidding adieu (darpan visarjan) to the goddess. On this day, called Dashami, devotees immerse the idols in a water body to only wait for her return the following year.
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When it comes to celebrating Durga Puja in Bihar, rituals are similar to those of UP — both states mark the last day of the puja by feeding young girls (kanya pujan). Altars are propped up for Goddess Durga, and the Durga Saptashati is recited to praise the goddess as the supreme power.
In both states, Navratri is marked by Ramlila — a performance based on the life of Lord Rama, including the kidnapping of his wife Sita by Ravana and the victory of good over evil. It is staged across the states in theatres as well as on temporary platforms, specially created for such acts.
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Ardent devotees of the goddess fast for nine days to pay respect to the nine incarnations of Durga. Women who fast, worship an earthen pot or garbo, decorated with diyas or earthen lamps. The pot symbolises life within a womb and is considered a source of shakti (power).
From observing fasts to performing the famous Garba — a dance where men and women circle the idol or the garbo — the people of Gujarat surely know how to celebrate festivities with gusto. They, too, conclude Durga Puja festivities by feeding young girls and giving either money or gifts to them.
People of Chhattisgarh, especially the tribals of Bastar, go all out when it comes to celebrating Navratri. The Bastar tribe holds a 75-day-long celebration, bringing the festivities to a close on the 13th day of the waxing moon or shukla paksha.
The tribe also follows a five-centuries-old festival called Bastar Dussehra where the idols of Devi Maoli and her sisters are carried in a procession from Bastar to the Danteshwari Temple in Jagdalpur.
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The northern state of Himachal Pradesh is famous for being home to many goddesses, and here is an interesting fact — Navratri celebrations commence in the state when the rest of the country is winding up the festivities.
The devotion of the people of Himachal to Lord Ram is brought to life during Navratri when Lord Rama is worshipped, with other deities, at the Dhalpur Maidan in Kullu Valley.
The state has its way of celebrating Dussehra: the Kullu Dussehra. It involves the burning of wood and grass on the banks of the Beas River. This symbolises the burning of Lanka or Lankadahan. On this day, the entire valley is adorned like a bride, and a huge procession is taken out, showcasing idols of deities to the Paddal ground.
(Image credit: Kullu Dussehra)
Karnataka is known for its Navratri festivities, especially in the city of Mysuru, popularly known as Mysore.
The state festival of Karnataka, Mysuru Dasara, is celebrated with nothing but grandeur and follows the same rituals that were performed at the time of King Raja Wodeyar I in 1610. The royal sword is worshipped on Mahanavami (the ninth day of the festival) by placing it on a throne. Later, a procession of elephants, camels and horses is taken out carrying the sword.
The Mysuru Palace is a sight to behold at this time of the year. It is decorated with hundreds of lights and flowers on Dussehra. Celebrations on this day are also marked with a grand procession called Jambo Savari, which carries Goddess Chamundeshwari — an avatar of Durga. The procession takes place at the palace and fairs are held across the city.
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Navratri is a special occasion for the women of Andhra Pradesh, especially those who are unmarried. They worship Goddess Gauri to bless them with a suitable partner. The festival is known as Bathukamma Panduga (Mother Goddess, Come Alive!) in Telugu.
Women create flower stacks for the Goddess, only to immerse it in a water body on the final day of the festivities.
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Durga Puja is celebrated with thrice the pomp and show in Tamil Nadu as three goddesses are worshipped on the last three days of the festival. The people of the southern state worship Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi and exchange gifts, sweets and coconuts among members of their families.
The highlight of the festivities is the Golu or Kolu ritual. According to the practice, young girls and women place heirloom dolls and figurines, which have been passed down through generations, on a small wooden platform (stepwise arrangement). These dolls signify famous legends, gods and goddesses.
Ayudha Puja is also a part of the rituals. Performed on Mahanavami, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on this day. Agricultural implements, books, musical instruments, machinery and automobiles are also revered along with the goddess.
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In this southern state of India, nine forms of Goddess Durga are celebrated over the nine days of Navarathri, as pronounced in Kerala. However, the last three days of the Hindu festival are devoted to the goddess of learning and wisdom — Saraswati. The rituals practised on these days involve worshipping of vocational tools. It is called Ayudha Pooja like that in Tamil Nadu. On this day, workers and students keep their tools and books, respectively, in the room of worship of temples or homes.
Another unique ritual practised on Vijayadashami is Vidyarambham, where a golden ring is used to write a mantra on the tongues of toddlers. The same mantra is then written on sand and rice spread on a plate as well, symbolising the introduction of knowledge to a child.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Dussehra, the last day of Durga Puja, is to be celebrated on 5 October. Thus, we still have two days to enjoy all the festivities.
Answer: Durga Puja began on 1 October, with Maha Shasthi, and will end on 5 October — the last day of the celebration called Vijayadashami.
Answer: Some of the best cities where you can witness Durga Puja celebrations in all their grandeur are: Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati and Pune.