The festival Durga Puja is considered very auspicious in Bihar and it is a 10 day long grand event which comprises two festivals Durga Puja / Navaratri and Dussehra.
Durga Puja for the people of Bihar means a grand community event with big puja Pandals of Maa Durga and is organized on a big scale.
Every year the organisers of Durga Puja Pandals community (Sarvajanik) come up with innovative ways to compete .
Like the theme decoration, light works and last but not the least the mesmerizing idols of Maa Durga, everything is planned elaborately.
The streets near Pandals are decorated with lights and outdoor fairs are organized. It is always a gala event specially for kids as schools remain closed in the last 4 days. They receive plenty of new clothes, sweets and money to go to the fair to have new toys, enjoy joy rides,
magic shows and lots of food stalls in the fair from different parts of India.
Navaratri (in Sanskrit means ‘nine nights) is celebrated for 9 days in the Ashwin month on a bright lunar fortnight as per the Bikram Sambat Calendar as a way of worshipping Maa Durga in her nine avatars.
On these nine nights, devotees observe fasting and offer special prayer to the ‘Nine Forms of Maa Durga’***. The devotees who observe Navaratri make Sankalpa / Oath for nine days in which they follow a strong everyday routine that is spiritual to keep themselves pure for prayer and positive energy. In many cases devotees observe complete nine days of fast and meditate about Maa Durga by chanting sacred mantras dedicated to Maa Durga. The festival starts on the first day with “Kalash** Invocation (Sthapana)”. The Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and "source of life" in the Vedas.
The significant part of festival is celebrated in the six days and observed as Mahalaya (First day), Shashthi (6th days), Maha Saptami (7th day), Maha Ashtami (8th day), Maha Navami (9th day) and finally Vijayadashami (10th day, It was on this day that Maa Durga is said to have killed the demon Mahishasura).
The 9th day, Maha Navami is celebrated with big puja and final Havan (Offering prayers to God in front of fire) and traditionally Kanya Puja (Girl child) observed by offering prayer and good meal as a bhog to at least 9 girl child symbolises 9 forms of Maa Durga. Also since the 9th day is the last day of navaratri and considered as the day when mata return to her place in heaven, hence a traditional practice of Daughter’s Vidai (holy departure) performed by nearly all women devotees by filling Mata’s anchal with all sorts of gifts like symbolic holy grains (rice grains) coming directly from their own field, clothes (saari), makeup items specially sindur, if possible jewelleries etc as a return gift to maa Durga.
The grand festival ends on the 10th day with Dussehra which signifies the god Rama's victory over the demon Ravana (king of Lanka).
It is depicted at some place with live Ram Lila performance, a gala theatrical enactment of Rama’s life story and Effigies of Ravana often along with Meghnada (Ravana’s son) and Kumbhkarana (Ravana’s brother) are stuffed with firecrackers and set ablaze at night in open fields.
People also believe that it is lucky to start a new venture, or pursue a marriage proposal, project or journey on Dussehra.
With this people rest their fun filled time at least for next 20 days as “Diwali and Chhath Puja” will be arriving in 20 days and with it return of celebration and big events.
** Kalash is a clay or brass pot and kept over multiple layers of the mixture of soil and grains. The grains spread near the periphery of the pot.
In the next step a sacred thread is tied on the neck of the kalash and fill it with the holy water (Ganga Jal). Inside Kalash things like the betel nuts, scent, grass and coins are dropped into the water. Mango leaves are kept at the edge of the kalash before covering it with a lid. Then a coconut wrapped with red cloth is kept on top of the kalash. With this, the kalash becomes ready for invocation.
***The nine forms of Maa Durga are worshiped with nine different prasad or bhog. Here are the nine forms of Goddess Durga and the special bhog offered to them.
1. Goddess Shailputri Goddess Shailputri is the first manifestation of Goddess Durga. She was born as the daughter of Himalaya and in Sanskrit, Shail means the mountain, thus she is known as Shailputri. She holds a Trishul in one hand and a lotus in the other and rides a bull called Nandi.
What to offer: Devotees offer pure ghee on the foot of Goddess Shailputri. It is believed that by offering pure ghee the devotees are blessed with a life free of diseases and illness. 2. Goddess Brahmacharini The second day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini. The goddess walks bare feet with a rudraksh mala in one hand and a sacred Kamandalu in the other. The meditative form of this goddess symbolises Goddess Parvati when she engages in her deep meditation to please Lord Shiva. What to offer: Goddess Brahmacharini is offered sugar for the longevity of life of the family members. 3. Goddess Chandraghanta The third day of Navratri is for Goddess Chandraghanta. She is a fierce 10-armed goddess with a crescent moon on her forehead, which gives her the name Chandraghanta. She rides on a tiger to destroy all evil and wicked forces. What to offer: The ferocious goddess is pleased with Kheer. She is known to drive away all pains (human suffering). 4. Goddess Kushmanda Chaturthi or the fourth day of Navratri is of Devi Kushmanda. The name Kushmanda is derived from three words - ‘Ku’ (little), ‘Ushma’ (warmth or energy) and ‘Anda’ (egg), which means the creator of the universe. What to offer: Devotees offer Malpua to Maa Kushmanda to improve their intellect and decision-making ability. 5. Goddess Skandmata Goddess Skandmata who is worshipped on the fifth day is also known as Panchami. Skandmata is a four-armed deity, who carries a lotus in two of her arms with a sacred Kamandalu and a bell in the other two. She also carries a little Kartikay on her lap and because of this Kartikay is also known as Skanda. She is seated on a lotus.
What to offer: Bananas are the favourite fruit of Goddess Skandmata. 6. Goddess Katyayani The sixth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani, who is a form of Shakti. Also known as the warrior goddess, Katyayani is considered as one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. She has four arms and carries a sword. She is the daughter of Sage Katyayan and rides on a lion.
What to offer: Devotees offer Honey as prasad to Devi Katyayani. 7. Goddess Kaalratri Saptami or the seventh day of Navratri is of Goddess Kaalratri. As per legends she sacrificed her skin colour and embraced a dark complexion to kill demons. She is a four-armed deity who rides a donkey, carries a sword, a trident, and a noose. She has a third eye on her forehead that is believed to contain the entire universe.
What to offer: Offer Jaggery as prasad to Devi Kaalratri for relief from sufferings, obstacles and bring happiness.
8. Goddess Mahagauri
Durga Asthami or the eight-day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. She is a four-armed deity who rides on a bull or a white elephant. She carries a Trishul and a damru in her hands.
What to offer: Goddess Mahagauri is offered coconut by devotees.
9. Goddess Siddhidatri The ninth or the final day of Navratri is of Goddess Siddhidhatri. She is projected as a four-armed deity sitting on a lotus, holding a mace, discus and a book and lotus in her hands. This form of Goddess Durga signifies perfection.
What to offer: Sesame Seeds are offered to Devi Siddhidatri for safety and security from unnatural events include a good conclusion
Bihar because of its prime location has many centers of learning in Ancient days and has two Shakti Peethams (places where Divine Mother of Hinduism are worshipped) in its state.
Author: Abhijit Thakur
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