As the New Year begins, one of the first things that most of us Bengalis do, is scan our calendars to mark the dates for the Durga Puja as that helps us to plan our leave for the year. So if we have family and friends living out of the city or country, we inform them in advance the good time for a family reunion and that is why the month of October holds a very special place for us.
As a child when I would visit the pandal with my parents, I would ask Ma as to why we celebrated this festival with so much fervour. She would explain that this was a time when we welcome home the daughter Durga who along with her children – Saraswati, Laxmi, Ganesh and Karthik would visit earth, while the head of the family – Shiva kept a watchful eye over them from the heavens as they made their journey.
Since it is such a happy occasion, we celebrate it by worshiping the Goddess who reassures us with her presence that she’s there with us and for us. Her arrival to earth symbolises that she brings with her the happiness and joy and with her trip back she takes away all the burdens of sadness from everyone’s lives.
That’s why you’ll find that during the Pujas, Bengalis fast, offering Pushpanjani, wearing new clothes, spending time with family and friends, relishing all the goodies and of course how can we forget ‘pandal-hopping’ during this four-day festival – as it symbolises reunions, happy times, love, peace and togetherness.
Durga Puja is a festival where Durga comes home to bless everyone. The happiness and excitement experienced by everyone is similar to that of a married daughter who comes home to visit her parents.
Goddess Durga symbolizes Shakti and the destroyer of evil. In today’s context, Durga appears as a multi-tasking goddess who nurtures, protects and blesses her loved ones; maybe a gentle reminder that this is exactly what all mothers do for their children.
They nurture, protect and take care of their children and at the same time impart good values of honesty and truthfulness; maybe these festivities are a gentle reminder how we are connected to this divine and selfless teaching.
Now that I am a mother myself, I can understand why my mother and the other ladies at the pandal shed a tear or two when the Goddess is taken for immersion at the end of the festival…as it is time to bid the Mother bid goodbye as she returns home to her husband with her children, while we wait in anticipation for her to come back year after year to bless us with love and strength.