BHAWNA ATMARAM

Durga Puja Festival

Durga Puja, also commonly known as ‘Navratri’ (nine nights), refers to the celebration of Goddess Durga. The festival takes place in the month of ‘Ashvin’ (September-October), the seventh month of the Hindu lunar calendar. During these nine nights, whether at home or in public temples, the Goddess is venerated. The festival originates in the Indian subcontinent and is observed in many states in India and the diaspora worldwide. Every day, a different form of the Goddess is worshipped: Shailaputri, Bramhmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidhati. Customs and practices related to Durga Puja vary from state to state.

Creation of Goddess Durga

Durga is depicted as a goddess riding a lion or a tiger, with many arms each bearing a weapon that she uses in the battle of Good versus Evil. Legend has it that Durga was specifically created by the Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in order to vanquish a buffalo king demon named Mahishasura.  The latter wanted to rule over the universe and after undergoing penance, he received a boon from Lord Brahma that no-one would be able to kill him, except a woman. Soon, Mahishasura, fuelled with arrogance, starting attacking humans on earth and gods in ‘Devaloka’ (dwelling of the gods). Everyone was powerless to stop him. Finally, the King of Gods Indra had to plead to the Holy Trinity for help.  The three gods created a powerful multi-limbed woman, aptly armed with weapons gifted by themselves in order to destroy the demon.  After a long battle, Durga slayed Mahishasura.

Durga and Feminine Power

Durga is made up of the combined powers of the Holy Trinity. Through her different forms which are worshipped every day during the festival, we get to discover her multi-faceted dimension.  She is caring, generous and merciful like a mother, showering her devotees with her love and blessings.  This is why she is affectionately called Maa Durga.  However, as the symbol of righteousness, she leaves no stone unturned to ensure that justice is meted out. In fact, Durga encapsulates feminine power.  When other gods were helpless, Durga fiercely battled the demon and emerged victorious.  She has broken the mould of patriarchy and represents the determination and courage within women.  Indeed, Durga Puja makes us reflect on the real power of women, which can be unleashed when required.  Durga Herself, through her various forms, can be poised and serene but equally courageous, depending on circumstances.  She is the destroyer of Evil and the protector of her devotees.  An inspiring female figure, no wonder Durga is one of the most venerated goddesses in Hinduism. She is Mahashakti (Almighty Power).

May her valiance continue to enlighten us and further encourage us to acknowledge the active contribution of women in all aspects of our lives.