The start of winter coincides with Durga Puja in October, the most important festival in Bengal. According to Hindu mythology, all gods and goddesses of thee Hindu pantheon endowed
Durga with a portion of their own energy to give her strength, or
shakti, to destroy the evil forces. Some 2,000 pandals are erected throughout the city. The image of
Durga shows her slaying the most powerful demon, Mahisasur.
This is the season for gifts. New clothes are purchased. Shops overflow with the latest goods. People take to the streets to visit the thousands of
puja pandals which spring virtually at every street corner. The puja climaxes on
Mahadashami, the 10th day when the image is carried in decorated carts or trucks in festive processions to be immersed in river
Northern Indian communities celebrated the festival of Dussehra on that day commemorating Rama's victory over the devil
Ravana, symbolising the triumph of good over evil. At sunset, huge effigies of
Ravana, his son and his brother are burned on the maidan.
The most important and the most popular of all Bengali festivals is the Durgapuja. It is celebrated throughout the state, but with great grandeur in Kolkata. There are some ancestral houses in Kolkata where
Durgapuja is being observed over decades and even over centuries.
A festival of colour, pujas, a variety of foods to stir up the senses and of course the ubiquitous decorations,
Dussehra (tenth day) is an important festival of Hindus. The entire country celebrates it with great zeal, though the pattern may differ a little from state to state.
The day celebrates the magnificence and omnipotence of Goddess Durga The legends say that the mighty demon
Mahishasur, vanquished the gods and their king, Indra, who subsequently fled, leaving behind their kingdoms. They then approached the Holy Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who decided to destroy the atrocious demon and prayed to the divine mother
Durga to do the needful. Equipped with lethal weapons riding a ferocious lion the Goddess in all her awesome majesty, destroyed the evil
Durga puja is celebrated in the autumn months of September/October. According to the Hindu solar
calendar, it falls on the first nine days of the month of
Ashvin. It is the time of the year when the weather is at its moderate best giving the air a festive touch. Images of the ten-armed goddess are worshipped in ancient houses and at
pandals, erected specially for the Puja. After the four-day ceremony, the images are immersed in the river.
Today's Puja goes far beyond religion. In fact, visiting the pandals recent years, one can only say that
Durgapuja the largest outdoor art festival on earth. In the 1990s, a preponderance of architectural models came up on the
pandal exteriors, but today the art motif extends to elaborate interiors, executed by trained artists, with consistent stylistic elements, carefully executed and bearing the name of the artist.
At the end of the six days long festival, the idol is taken in a procession amid loud chants and drumbeats to the river or other water body, and it is cast in the waters symbolic of the departure of the deity to her home with her husband in the Himalayas. After this, in a tradition called Vijaya Dashami, families visit each other and sweetmeats are offered to visitors
(Dashami is literally tenth day and Vijay is victory).