Durga Puja Festival
Trip Start Oct 13, 2004
9Trip End Nov 16, 2004
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On Friday, I had the opportunity to celebrate, Durga Puja, the biggest Hindu festival in Bengal. It has migrated to other parts of India especially here in Hyderabad and other southeastern cities. It's a festival that adores God as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the world that emphasizes the extent the motherhood of God. It is believed that one's relationship with one's mother is the dearest and sweetest of all human relations therefore making God equal to mother.
The festival is also known as Dussehra and Navaratri (meaning "nine nights" of celebration) and celebrates, Durga, the Goddess of divine power against all evils. This Divine Mother is believed to exist in all beings in the form of intelligence, mercy, and beauty
As the story goes, Mahisasur, the Buffalo Demon (seen in the middle of the tableau), prays for years and receives a blessing from Lord Brahma, that no power can kill him. His invincible power corrupts him and he ravages the world and doesn't stop until he uproots the Gods, too. The Gods, in dismay, combine their powers to create a beautiful maiden, Durga, and place their most potent weapons in one of her ten hands riding a lion.
The festival is observed twice a year and lasts for nine days in honor of the nine manifestations of Durga. Devotees fast and Brahmins (Hindu priestly class) offer prayers for the protection of health and property. Spiritual type A's fast only with milk and fruits the entire nine days. Nine girls below the age of ten are worshipped as the embodiment of the Divine Mother and are fed sumptuously and presented with new clothes.
On the last day of celebration, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Most of the community postpones the farewell as long as possible and arranges a grand send-off. The tableau is carried in processions around the city and is finally immersed in a nearby river or lake
The festival vibrantly awakened all of my jet-lagged senses with colorful flowers, burning incense and ceremonious drums. Exotic ballet dancers performed some famous poet's interpretation of the Durga. I was struck by how many people thanked me for coming to their festival to learn about their most cherished Gods. I'll never forget this celebration of not only goodness but the honoring of evil, which is recognized rather than ignored, loathed and feared.