NAVARATRA:

        Navratra are observed twice a year, one in the month of Chaitra, preceding Ramnavami, and then in Ashvin (September-October) preceding Dussehra. This nine-day Navratra commences with the new moon of Ashvin and terminates with Mahanavami, on the ninth lunar day of the bright half of the month. During these nine days, devotees keep strict fast and worship Durga. The style of observing Navratra in different parts of the country may be different, but its sole aim is to propitiate Mother Durga and to seek her blessings.

        On Pratipada (first lunar day of bright half of Ashvin) an earthen pitcher filled with water, its month covered with green leaves and an earthen lid, is installed with invocation of Ganesh, the god of learning and wisdom, and then Durga is invoked and ritually worshipped with durva grass, flowers, leaves, lamps, incense, new grains, raiments, etc. Barley seeds are also sprouted and grown in a pot on this occasion, and the same is worn in caps and on ears on the final day. Unmarried girls below the age of ten are also worshiped and given gifts during these nine days. A clarified butter lamp is always kept burning before the installed pitcher during the celebration, and daily Durga-saptashi, Devi Bhagvat Puran and Devi Mahatmaya section of the Markandeya Puran are read and recited.

        In Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated with great excitement and festivity and huge puja pavilion, with an idol of ten-armed Durga is, set up at various places. Durga, the beautiful , but fierce goddess rides her mount of the lion, killing the demon Mahishasura. In each of her ten hands she holds one of the god’s special weapons: Vishnu’s discus , Shiva’s trident, Varuna’s conch shell, Agni’s flaming dart, Vayu’s bow, Surya’s quiver, Indra’s thunderbolt, Kubera’s club, a garland of snakes from Shesh, and as a charger, a lion from the Himalaya. A fierce battle raged between Durga and Mahishasura, but finally she killed him with a spear.

        Durga Puja surpasses all other festivals in Bengal in its popularity and mass appeal. During the celebration, music, dance, drama and poetry are performed before the enthralled audience. The earthern images of goddess Durga are taken on the final day in triumphal procession from all corners of coverage on the river where they are ceremonially immersed. Durga Puja is more than a ritual as it invests the lives of every one with a new enlightment, and produces a feverish literacy and artistic activity. It is believed that Durga visit her parents Himavan and Maina only during these days in a year. The final day marks the end of this brief visit when she leaves for Mount Kailash, the abode of her lord and husband Shiva. Bengali ladies give an emotion-charged and affectionate send off to Durga, and the ceremony is characterized with a daughter’s departure to her husband’s house.