Rituals in Durga Puja

The Bengalee style of the image shows the ten handed Goddess astride a lion with one of her legs on the Mahishasura, the demon. The spear in her hand is firmly struck on the demon's chest. Each of her ten hands carry a separate weapon, resembling the ones contributed by the other Gods. The Goddess is flanked by Ganesh and Laxmi on one side and Saraswati and Kartick on the other. The background is a pictorial arc ('Chalchitra' is the name) with different pictures of Gods and demons drawn on it.

The Durga Puja spans over a period of ten days in case of traditional and household Pujas, though the main part of it is restricted to four days only. The fifteen days from the new moon upto the next full moon is called as 'Debi-Paksha,' which, according to some beliefs, is the best time for doing any holy thing. On the day of 'Mahalaya', the last new moon before the Pujas, the eyes of the image are drawn, the process being called 'chakshu-daan' and the Puja gets going. The main Puja, however, starts on the evening of 'Sasthi', the sixth day after the new moon, generally from beneath a 'Bel' tree for the traditional ones. In the wee hours of 'Saptami,' the next day, the 'Pran' or life of the Devi is brought from a nearby pond or river in a banana tree and established inside the image. The banana tree is folded on a new yellow saree, the entire thing resembling a newly wed bride sitting in a palanquin, and is called as the 'Kola-Bou' or the Banana Bride. This process of implanting virtual life into the idol is generally known as 'Bodhan.' The main puja starts thereafter and the prime time is reached in the 'Sandhikshan,' the crossover time between Ashtami and Navami. Arati takes place everyday in the evening. Finally, on 'Dashami,' the tenth day from the new moon, the image is immersed in a pond or river, with people vowing to spend the year ahead in peace and brotherhood. Sweetmeats are exchanged between families as a token of good relation between them. This ritual,called as 'Bijoya', generally continues till Kalipuja, which is held on the next new moon.

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