Today marks the beginning of Navratri, a nine day festival to mark the ascendance of Goddess Durga on earth. Durga was a goddess who came on earth to fight the evil demon Mahishasur. Since then every year at the beginning of the month of Ashwin, Navratri is celebrated to worship nine forms of Durga. The tenth day is Dussehra or Vijayadashmi which is the day when Maa Durga defeated Mahishasur and his cronies.
Durga Puja or Durga Pujo or Navratri is a festival celebrated all over the country with much enthusiasm. It is a symbolic way to celebrate and propagate the victory of good over evil. In India, different regions have different customs and traditions associated with this festival which makes it more interesting. I will list here nine different places in India and world which are a must visit during the Puja season to witness the greatness of this festival.
- Bengal – Undoubtedly the Durga Pujo celebration in Bengal is the largest hindu festival of the state. The Durga Puja of Bengal is world renowned and one can not escape the flare, the frenzy and the faith flowing in the veins of the devotees. Adding to the Puja pandals are the numerous delicacies which are prepared throughout the ten day period to honor the home coming of the goddess.
2. Bihar – The neighboring state of Bengal, Bihar is no where behind when it comes to Durga Puja festivities. Each year, the various Durga Puja samitis put up Pandals and Maa Durga sculptures with a theme and try to outdo each other. From idols made of rice to moving idols of Maa decapitating Mahishasur, you can find all kinds of eccentricities in Bihar.
3. Mysore, Karnataka – The Dussehra celebration of Mysore is famous all over the world. Mysore is named after the demon Mahishasur, the original name of the city being Mahishur. On the Chamundi Hills there is a statue of the demon and it is said to be the place where the goddess slayed the demon. Every year people from all parts of the country throng Mysore to get a glimpse of the jewel decked Elephant procession which gives a royal touch to the whole celebration.
4. Kullu, Himachal Pradesh – Kullu Dussehra is another renowned Dussehra celebration. It starts on the day of Vijayadashmi and continues for seven days. The highlight of the celebration is rath yatra of Raghunath ji, the ruling deity of the Kullu valley.
5. Gujarat – In Navratri you can not just miss the color and pomp of the dandiya raas which is an integral part of Navratri celebration In Guajarat. In Gujarat Navrati is synonymous with Dandiya. In Dandiya people dance with two sticks called dandiyas in hand. These dandiyas represent the swords of Goddess Durga and add to the rhythm of the music and produce an enchanting effect. Dandiya is performed after the aarti of the Goddess. Also worth watching is the garba performances which happen before the aarti of the goddess to honor her presence.
6. Katra, Jammu – The famous shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi, a form of the goddess is situated in Katra. During the Durga Puja festival, more devotees throng to the shrine to offer their prayers to the Goddess. The shrine is in the form of a cave temple and is situated on top of the Trikuta hills. The devotion and faith of the visitors is something that can infuse new energy in anyone.
7. Kamakhya Temple, Assom – Kamakhya Temple is one of the famous Shaktipeethas and is famous for it’s fortnight celebration of the Durga Puja. The rituals are held behind closed doors and are said to date back to antiquity.
8. Dasain Festival, Nepal – Dasain is the Nepali counterpart of Durga Puja. It is regarded as one of the largest animal sacrifice festival in the country. While the beginning of the festival is all about animal sacrifice to satiate the blood thirst of Goddess, the last day of the festival witnesses processions and masked dances throughout the city of Kathmandu.
9. Indonesia – Though Indonesia is a muslim populated country, it has its share of Bengali population who celebrate Durga Puja each year with much flare. If you happen to be in Indonesia don’t miss out the traditional Bengali celebration and hop into the Pandals put up by Bengali Association.