‘Sharodotsav’ or Durga Puja celebrations are upon us. An Autumn festival, it represents Durga Maa as Shakti, symbol of women power and her victory over the demon Mahishasura. Its celebrations should serve as a timely reminder of the need for India to protect and nurture its woman and the girl child.
Must do’s for annual Puja!
Mahalaya: The first day of Navaratri, at 5 am, Bengalis wake up to chanting of shlokas by late Pankaj Kumar Mallick, rendered beautifully by Birendra Krishna Bhadra to welcome the Goddess.
Dress: Ten new outfits are required for five-day celebrations – two on a daily basis! Mornings are devoted to shradhanjali and eating bhog while evenings are for Aarati and entertainment.
Rituals: These are intricate and lovingly performed every year. They include daily collection of 108 lotus flowers to be placed at the feet of the Goddess, along with red Jaba flowers, which only blooms in Delhi just before Navaratri.
Evening Aarti: This is a must for those who love the sound of drums by drummers who come from Bengal to perform. Ladies tuck in their sarees and perform “dhunuchi naach” which means dancing to drum beats in front of the Goddess, carrying earthen pots with burning incense in each hand.
Entertainment: On the first day is “Agamani” which includes songs to welcome the Goddess. One always hopes for a performance of “Jatra” which is Bengali folk theatre, performed without mike, and on an open stage with different historical and social themes. Jatra is an important part of Durga Puja celebrations and is not to be missed. Other forms of entertainment must include at least one Bengali film!
Food: This is last but not the least! It has become one of the most important rituals of the Pujas. This year in Delhi, try traditional “Kobiraji Cutlets”, “Mughlai Parathas”, “Kosha Mangsho” and “Fish Rolls” at different Pujas in Chittaranjan Park or other delicacies. Lunch is served sometimes to more than a thousand people. Food stalls are open from 11 am to midnight!
Enjoy Pujas in the true spirit of Tagore’s Geetanjali:
“What divine drink wouldn’t thou have my God from this overflowing cup of my life?
Thy world is weaving words in my mind and thy joy is adding music to them.”
(A Bengali at heart Ambassador Bhaswati Mukherji is a NewsMobile Mobile Journalist and columnist)