Durga Puja

Durga Puja

Durga Puja The cult of Shakti worship in Odisha is prevalent, both in the Tantric and non-Tantric forms, as can be realized from the festivals Vasanti Durga Puja or Chaitra Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Chaitra (March or April), Sharadiyo Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Aswina (September-October) and Kalipuja (October-November), which are celebrated with utmost solemnity, gaiety and eclat. The great Mother, as the ten-handed Durga, is believed to come down from her husband's home on Mount Kailash to her parents' abode in the Himalayas every year for three days, the 7th, 8th and 9th days of the 'bright fortnight' in the month of Aswina. In Odisha richly decorated and beautifully made images are installed in people's houses and the festival instils a spirit of holiness and sancity in the whole community, so much so that people of other faiths participate in it with abundant warmth and sincerity. In Odisha the special feature of Durga Puja is that, in the temples, it extends over a sixteen-day period known as Shodasa Upachara, unlike other parts of the country, where it lasts for three to nine days at most.

The autumnal or Sharadiya ceremony is known under various names in Odisha: Dussehra, Durgapuja, Akal Bodhan, Shodasa Upachara, Durgotsava, Sharadiyo Utsava etc.

Durga Puja Rituals

The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in Aswin. Thousands offer prayers to their ancestors at the city's river banks or secred ponds, a ritual called Tarpana. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days - Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. The puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Three days of Mantras and Shlokas and Arati and offerings - needs an expert priest to do this kind of Puja. Because of this, the number of Pujas privately conducted by families has lessened and Durga Puja has emerged as a community festival.

Mahashashthi: On this day Goddess Durga arrives to the mortal world from her heavenly abode, accompanied by her children. She is welcomed with much fanfare amidst the beat of traditional drums. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day. Bela Baran or Kalaparambha, the ritual performed before the commencement of the puja, precedes Chakshyu Daan, Amantran and Adhibas.

Mahasaptami: Saptami is the first day of Durga Puja. A tiny banana plant, or Navapatrika, is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The main Saptami Puja follows Kalparambha and Mahasnan.

Mahaastami: The day begins with a recital of Sanskrit hymns, in community puja pandals, as thousands of devotees offer anjali to the goddess. Kumari Puja, or the worship of little girls as the child goddess, was a special part of the rituals observed in a number of traditional and household pujas. As the day continues, it is time for the important Sandhi Puja, which marks the inter-linking of the Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami. In recent times the Pani-Kakharu (White Pumpkin) sacrifice replaced animal sacrifice in various parts of the state. The Oriya women of western Odisha and adjoining Chhattisgarh celebrate Bhaijiutia on the Mahastami Day of Durga Puja. It is a total fast undertaken by women for the whole day and night to seek Goddess Durga's blessing for the long life of their bhais (brothers).

Mahanavami: This is the concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Navami Puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. The Navami Bhog consisting fish is offered to the goddess. This is later partaken of as prasad[clarification needed] by the devotees. In the day of Navami the Oriya households organise Navami Bhoji (Navami feast) and invite friends, relatives. In this day they prepare typical Oriya delicasies (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items).

Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra: After the three days of Puja, in Dashami, on the last day, after the last ritual Aparajita Puja is offered to the Goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to her. The women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water and curd), Pitha (baked cake), Mitha (sweets) and Fish fry to the goddess. Most of the community pujas prolong the farewell as long as possible, and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locality and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijoya Dashami is an event celebrated all over India. After the immersion of the idol, people across the state celebrate "Ravan Podi" (they burn the huge idol of Demon Ravana).

Ram Leela: Dussera celebrates the homecoming of Rama the hero of the epic Ramayana, after his victory over Ravana, the king of Lanka. In vast open spaces, Ramleela the folk play, with music and spontaneous dialogues, retelling the story of the life of Rama, is enacted till the early hours of the morning. Songs are sung in praise of Rama, and people in thousands witness this traditional theatre with its exaggerated costumes, jewellery, makeup and drama.

Ravan Podi: Larger than life figures of Ravana, and other demons, are burnt on cold dark nights, with fireworks lighting up the sky, known as Ravan Podi on the day of Vijaya Dasami. Ravan Podi was started in the late 1980s by the Sahid Nagar Durga Puja Committee, and since when, more than 30 ravana podi have been organised by different puja pendals in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Sword fighting and other martial arts: Traditional villages in the state of Odisha have their own way of celebrating the Dussera. Traditional sword fighting tournaments were organised by the village associations (Akharas) mostly by the Khandayats,Dalua, Banayats and Paikas, and the warrior class (Kshatriyas). One of the oldest traditions in the village of Kusupur, in Odisha, has been kept alive for more than one hundred years by Kusupur Dussera Sabha, which is in itself unique.

Worship of Sword and other traditional weapons: The holy Hindu scriptures testify that on this day Rama killed Ravana and his victory was celebrated. Therefore, it is also called 'Vijaya Dasami'. (Victorious tenth day). In Odisha it was, therefore, a military festival. In the villages the agriculturists worship their implements. The Khandayats or the Paikas[clarification needed] bring out their rusty swords, spears and other weaponry to clean and worship. Paika Akhadas are held in which young men indulge in stylised military dances, displays of sword-fighting and various acrobatic stunts. People in general clean their professional tools and instruments at this time, and also clean, plaster and whitewash their houses. Beautiful flower-designs are painted on both sides of the doors.

Bhai jeuntia: This is generally known in the region of western Odisha. The Bhaijiutia feast is celebrated on the Mahastami day of the Durga Puja by the Oriya women of Western Odisha and Chhattisgarh. It is a total fast by women for the whole day and night to seek the goddess Durga's blessing for the long life of their bhais (brothers).

Gauri Puja: Gauri Puja, also known as Hara-Gauri Puja and Hara-Parvati Puja, is observed by young, unmarried girls, who fast and pray to get a suitable husband. In some part of the state the idols of Shiva and Parvati are also installed[clarification needed], along with the idol of Mahishamardini Durga.

Chhatar Jatra: This festival is observed during Dussehra, in the month of Aswin, in the town of BhawaniPatna, District of Kalahandi. This festival is dedicated for Maa Manikeswari, the presiding deity of the region. Lakhs of devotees from Odisha and adjoining Chhattisgarh come to pay their homage during Chatar jatra. After performing the traditional Sandhi Puja in the Manikeswari temple on Mahastami night, the ceremonial Chhatra of the Goddess Manikeswari is taken to Jenakhal, about three kilometres from the town, where secret rituals are performed in the early hours of Mahanavami. During the return journey, with the thrilling beat of the Jena badya, Nisan, and Ghanta, the Deity is accompanied with dancers performing Ghumura, a traditional martial dance form. Devotees follow the Deity and make offering as a token of the fulfillment of their wishes. The devotees also release hundreds of doves in the name of the deity during the celebrations. At the main gate of the temple, the Maharaja of Kalahandi performs a puja and receives the Chhatra from the priests, and takes it inside the temple. It is also famous for its animal sacrifices.

Biraja/Viraja Dussehra Rath Yatra: Jajpur town has grown around its temples. The main temple is that of Birajadevi or the Biraja Temple. Mounted on a lion, she carries a spear with one arm and holds the tail of Mahishasur with the other. Festivals are held at Durga Puja and Kali Puja. Jajpur is another Hindu pilgrimage. It is one of 51 holy places and it is where Sati's navel fell[clarification needed]. It was named after King Jajati Keshari. In course of time this became Jajpur. It was once the capital of Odisha. Navi Gaya is found here inside the temple. The materials put in the Navi Gaya is supposed to go to Samudra (a sea). An annual car festival is also seen here during Sharadiya Durga Puja in the Aswina month.

Dussehra Bullock race: Hundreds of people throng Chandrapada village in coastal Odisha, to watch a traditional bullock race during Dussehra/Durgapuja. The 'Dussehra Bullock race' is a century old tradition, in which at least 50 bullocks from the village race against each other, decked in embroidered sheets and smeared with vermilion and various paints. Bullock owners pamper their cattle the year round and feed them with sesame oil, green fodder and other high calorie food, so that the animals can win the annual competition. First the villagers perform various rituals and serve food to the Brahmins. Once the rituals are over, the villagers bathe the bullocks and smear colours on them. After this, they decorate them with embroidered sheets that are embedded with beads. Once the bullock is ready, people toss a live fish in front of it. After this, they let the bullock loose and they start running. A big feast is organised as the bullock race ends.

jeypore-dussehra-mahotsav Jeypore Dussehra Mahotsav: The festival fervour here is reminiscent of the glorious past of the erstwhile Jeypore kingdom of south Odisha. The practice of villagers coming to the town carrying their village deities has been attracting tourists in large numbers. The countdown for 'Patuara', the night procession on Vijaya Dashami has begun as people are eagerly waiting to start the procession from the King's palace, in which the village heads will carry the deities to bring them to Dusherra ground where demon Mahishasur will be killed.

Notes, found in the diary of an eminent palm leaf designer of Jeypore kingdom, revealed the glorious past of the Dussehra celebration here. The diary, which was written in 1956, was recovered in Jeypore recently. Describing the festival spirit in those days, he had written about the splendour of eight elephants and 20 horses leading the procession, with people beating huge drums, as well as nagara, toori and birakahali, specially brought for the occasion. Dussehra in Jeypore is not just worshiping Durga. The festival is an occasion for people to reunite. People from distant places, like Umerkote and Nandapur, used to visit 'Jayapura', the ancient name of Jeypore. In earlier times it was celebrated for 16 days. Village heads were invited and their procession was known as 'lathi yatra'. The king used to honour the village heads. It has had a great effect on the people, who remained united.

Gosani Yatra of Puri: Janhikhai durga in Puri in traditional Kalinga attire

The Jagannath Puri, as it is known to most of India, prepares to welcome Devi Durga. In Odisha people call it Gosani Yatra. It is noteworthy that the co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga and Madhava (Lord Jagannath) prevails from the 11th century, of the Ganga period, in Puri. This is evident from the sculptures on the temple walls i.e., from the pista[clarification needed] of the Jagamohana of the Sun temple at Konark and on the northern bedha of the Bhogamandapa of the Jagannath temple, in Puri.

In these representations, Sivalinga, Mahisamardini Durga and Lord Jagannath are seen installed on a pedestal and worshipped by a king. However the Gosanis represent several aspects of Mahisamardini Durga at Puri, which are worshipped during the Durga Puja festival.

The Gosani Yatra of Puri has its origin in folk culture. This fact is evident from the local folk names they bear such as Kakudikhai, Barabati, Janhimundia, Janhikhai, Sunya Gosani, Panapriya, Hadabai, Gelabai, Belabai etc. There are several local traditions and legends behind the names of the Gosanis. During Gosani Yatra, different types of clay figures of the Sampati bird along with monkeys, Ravana lifting Kailash mountain, Demons, Ghosts, Nagas, wooden toys etc. are also worshipped.

car-festival At Puri, the faces of the Gosani figures are depicted in a manner, which gives an impression that Devi is closely watching Mahisasura and engaged in fierce fighting. Here, in this case, both Mahisasura and Devi look at each other with great concentration. It is evident from the straight eye contact between them, unlike the images of Kolkata and Cuttack, where the face of Devi is generally depicted in profile.

Another feature of the Gosani images of Puri is that, the demon, in most cases, is depicted in theriomorphic form i.e., the head is of a buffalo and the body is of a human being.

The autumnal, or Sharadiya ceremony, started in different parts of the state at different times. Although the dates are the same, the traditions differ.

Cuttack: The city of Cuttack is the socio-cultural center of the state. The earliest Sarbojonin Durga Puja was reportedly held in the Kazi Bajaar area of the city in 1832 by both Oriya and Bengali employees of the East India Company. The local people participated in the festivities enthusiastically. However, due to differences which cropped up later, the Oriyas decided to organise the Puja on their own. Now the silver and gold jewellary clad Durga is seen in many lanes and pandals. The pandal is permanent throughout the year in the suburbs of Cuttack, where regular worship is done for the divine mother, and idols are made only during Dussehra time and immersed after that.

Another opinion is that Chaitanya Deb Mahaprabhu started the Pujas in 1505 AD, when he visited Cuttack, on his way to Puri to the temple of Lord Jagannath. Even though this may be true, the autumnal ceremony or "Akaal Bodhon", as people celebrate it now, is very similar to Markandeya Purana, and is not codified in the most ancient Hindu scriptures.

Berhampur: The Silk city Berhampur is the commercial nerve centre of Odisha, and one of the prominent cultural centres of Eastern India. It is one of the religious epicenters of Odisha and famous for its Shakti cult. The presence of Adi Shakti Pith Maa Taratarini Temple near Berhampur, and other major shakti centers like Bhairavi, Mahamayee, Mohuri Kalika, Singhasini, Upper Bagh Devi Temple etc. proves its traditions. The city has a carnival look during Durga Puja and Navaratri.The main ritual is Ayudha Puja organised on Mahanavami and Vehicle Puja on Vijayadashami.One can find vehicles being decorated and wroshipped on early morning of Vijayadashami.The female folk observe fast on Vijayadashami day and worship Gauri Maa on the evening of Vijayadashami.

Maa Tara Tarini: The Tara Tarini Shrine is one of the oldest pilgrimage centers of the Mother Goddess and is one of the four major ancient Shakti Peethas in India. This oldest and famous Adi Shakti Pith is situated on the holy Taratirini hill (Purnagiri), at a distance of 30 km from Berhampur, in the state of Odisha, India. It is believed to be the Breast Shrine (Sthana Pith) of Adi Shakti and originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati.

The mythological texts recognize four major Shakti Peethas, i.e. [Tara Tarini] (Stana Khanda) near Berhampur, Vimala (Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple (Puri), Kamakhya (Yoni khanda) near Guwahati and Dakshina Kali, Kalighat (Mukha khanda) in Kolkata. Apart from these, there are 52 other sacred Shakti Peethas, which originated from the limbs of the corpse of Mata Sati in the Satya Yuga, present in Indian sub-continent.

Balasore: The Madan Das family of Balasore started Durga Puja here. In 1846, the Das family celebrated the first Durga Puja in the town after Maa Durga appeared in a dream and ordered Herself to do so. Durga Puja is now celebrated in many parts of the city of Balasore. The Das family celebrated the 166th Puja this year making it one of the oldest family pujas in the state. The preparations for Puja start about a month ago with the traditional artisan coming down to Das family's ancestral house (which is itself more than 250 years old) to start building Maa Durga's idol. The Puja officially starts on Mahashashthi with Maa Durga being decorated with traditional ornaments and saree. The Das family has a tradition of offering bhog in a very special manner on Mahaastami, wherein people in hundreds from all over the city and nearby villages bring in their offerings, which are then accumulated in a huge room and offered to Maa Durga by the priests. The Durga Puja ends on Vijaydashmi with submerging of Maa Durga's idol.

The Durga Puja is celebrated with full pomp and ceremony by the Ghosh family[citation needed]. The Ghosh family has a very rich history of culture and still exists. The Ghosh family has a Shyamchand Jewish Temple and a Durga Mandap within its premises.

Bhadrak: Bhadrak is the seat of Goddess BhadraKali, one of the manifestations of Shakti. Durga Puja is linked to ancient rituals connected with the Goddess although the autumnal ceremony started in the 18th century.


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