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DURGA PUJA

Durga, in Sanskrit means "She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach." Goddess Durga is a form of Shakti worshiped for her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. Mother of the Universe, she represents the infinite power of the universe and is a symbol of a female dynamism.

The festival of Durga Puja is celebrated all over India with different festivities and rituals. Durga Puja is celebrated in the autumn, in the month of September/October. 

 

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It is the time when the weather remains at its best giving the atmosphere a festive mood. The advent of autumn is impossible to overlook in any corner of the land. It arouses one from bed at dawn, with the sound of high-pitched, ululations, the frantic blowing of conch shells and bell metal cymbals. This simple ceremony marks the arrival of the Mother Goddess Durga, for the festival of Durga Puja.

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Durga Puja is basically a festival with a long series of rituals followed on every day of the Puja. Starting from the day of the Mahalaya, the days of Sashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami or Bijoya Dashami every day has its own unique rituals to follow. But it is not only the festival that has rituals associated with it, but also the making of Durga idols is governed by a series of rituals. These rituals are closely related with the holy river Ganga. 

The elemental ritual, which is most commonly followed, is that the ingredients that are used to make the idol of goddess Durga come from the holy river. The activity of immersing the idol in the Ganga at the end of the festival this way points to a theme of cyclical regeneration too. Generally, the idol of Durga is flanked by the idols of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh, all of whom are believed to be her children. The goddess sits atop a lion, which is her vahan. 

The favorite tableau is of her stabbing Asura, the demon. It is symbolic of the victory that she had achieved for the gods over the demons.

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About Goddess Durga 

There are endless aspects of Durga described in the Puranas and Agamas and the iconography is consequently very varied. She is usually pictured as having ten arms holding Sword, Conch, Discus, Rosary, Bell, Winecup, Shielf, Bow, Arrow, and Spear. She is most often shown riding a lion from which comes Her august name, Simhavahini, "She who stands astride the king of beasts". She is gorgeously dressed in royal red cloth and has several ornaments decorating Her personage. Her hair is dressed up in a crown (karandamukuta) which then flows out in long luxuriant tresses that are darkly luminous and soothing to the eye. The various tools reflects the eminent supremacy that helps in controling the universe and obey Her will.

Goddess Durga exists eternally, always abiding in her own sweet nature and inhabits the hearts and minds of her ecstatic devotees. As Shakti power, she shapes, nurtures, and dissolves names and forms, while as subtle spiritual energy called Kundalini, She lights the lotuses fo the seven centres of awareness in the sacred human body. Goddess Durga killed the powerful demon Mahish and all his great commanders. When demonic forces create imbalance all god unite becoming one divine force called Shakti or Durga.
 

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Origin of Durga - The Mythology


Devi is the great goddess of the Hindus,the consort of Shiva and she is worshiped in various forms corresponding to her two aspects: benevolence and fierceness. She is Uma, "light"; Gauri, "yellow or brilliant"; Parvati, "the mountaineer"; and Jagatmata, "the-mother-of-the-world" in her milder guise. The terrible emanations are Durga "the inaccessible"; Kali, "the black"; Chandi, "the fierce"; and Bhairavi, "the terrible."

Durga, a beautiful warrior seated upon a tiger, was the first appearance of the great goddess. The circumstance of her miraculous arrival was the tyranny of the monster-demon Mahishasur, who through terrific austerities had acquired invincible strength. The gods were afraid of this water-buffalo bull because neither Vishnu nor Shiva could prevail against him. It seemed that the joint energy of Shakti was only capable of vanquishing Mahisha, and so it was the eighteen-armed Durga who went out to do battle.

She went to battle on her ferocious mount lion, armed with the weapons given to her by the other Gods. Durga is one of the angry and aggressive aspects of the goddess Shakti, whose role in Hindu mythology was to fight and conquer demons and also personify the Sakti or female aspect of any male deity. In the battle, she fought and killed the evil Mahishasura and restored heaven to the Gods. Since then the goddess is invoked for protection from the powers of evil. Durga Puja is observed in her honor, to celebrate her victory over evil.

She has been worshiped from about 400 AD, but probably earlier, to the present. Her literary references are chiefly the Ramayana and Mahabharata, epic and Puranic texts, and she is mentioned by name in Vedic literature. In general, Durga is regarded in northern India as the gentle bride epitomizing family unity while in southern India she is revered more in her warrior aspect.

Durgapuja, over the years, has outgrown its religious connotations to a large extent as people all over the India celebrate it with a gusto. There are various ways in which Ma Durga is worshiped. The rituals and customs vary due to vast difference in the culture of Indian States. But, all these follow the century old tradition and practice that intermingle with historical ethos.

Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, Durga Puja is a fun occasion. Puja is performed each day and devotees don't remove the flower garland that is put each day on the idol or image of the deity. After nine days all nine are removed together. Young girls who have not attained maturity are invited to eat, play games, dance and sing. An elephant is drawn with rangoli and the girls play guessing games. Then they are fed a meal of their choice.

West Bengal
In West Bengal, Durga Puja is five days of festivity. It hinges around Mahalaya day, a week before the actual celebrations begin. It was on this day that Durga was assigned the task of eliminating evil. So the familiar pose of Durga unleashing her wrath on an out powered assura (demon). Legend goes that Ram wanted to invoke the blessings of Durga before his great war with Ravan. He performed the Durga Puja despite the time of year not being right. That is why the puja is also known as Akal Bodhon, or untimely invocation.

Punjab
People of Punjab strictly observes Navratri. Some Punjabus have only milk for seven days before breaking the fast on ashtami or navami. They worship Durga Ma and do the aarti at home. Some of them have fruit or a complete meal once a day and intoxicating drinks or meat and other form of entertainment is completely avoided. At the end of the fast devotees feed beggars or worship little girls who spell the Shakti of the Mother Goddess.

Gujarat
Navratri is devoted to Amba mataji. In some homes, images of mataji are worshiped in accordance with accepted practice. This is also true of the temples, which usually have a constant stream of visitors from morning to night. The most common form of public celebration is the performance of garba or dandia-ras, Gujarat's popular folk-dance, late throughout the nights of these nine days in public squares, open grounds and streets.

Kerala
In Kerala, Durga Puja signifies the beginning of formal education for every child aged 3-5 years. While puja goes on in the temple for all ten days, it is only the concluding three days which are really important. Ashtami is the day of Ayudya Puja, when all the tools at home are worshiped. Custom dictates that no tools be used on this day. On navami, day, Goddess Saraswati is honored by worshiping the books and records at home.

Thousands throng the Saraswati temple at Kottayam during this period to take a dip in the mysterious holy pond whose source is yet unknown. Large gatherings are also seen at the famous temples at Thekkegram (Palghat), in which there are no idols -- only huge mirrors. A devotee finds himself bowing before his own reflection which indicates that God is within us.

Kashmir
Hindus are a minority in Jammu and Kashmir but they celebrate their festivals with pomp and show. These days, festivities are subdued, though. The favorite deities of Kashmir are Lord Shiva and Serawali Ma Durga, the one who rides the tiger. Pundits and Muslims alike vouch that Navratri is important. No big pandals here, each Hindi house-hold does the pooja at home. All the adult members of the household fast on water. In the evenings, fruit may be taken. As elsewhere, Kashmiris grow barley in earthen pots. They believe that if the growth in this pot is good, there is prosperity all year.

The most important ritual for Kashmiri Pandits is to visit the temple of guardian goddess Kheer Bhawani on all nine days. On the last day of Navratri, an aarti is held at the temple after which people break their fast. On Dussehra day, Ravana's effigy is burnt. Devotees also visit the Hari Parbat temple.

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  Navratri

Navratri, the festival of nights, lasts for 9 days with three days each devoted to worship of Ma Durga, the Goddess of Valor, Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. During the nine days of Navratri, feasting and fasting take precedence over all normal daily activities amongst the Hindus. Evenings give rise to the religious dances in order to worhip Goddess Durga Maa.

1st - 3rd day of Navratri
On the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud is prepared in the puja room of the house and barley seeds are sown on it. On the tenth day, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. After the puja, these seedlings are pulled out and given to devotees as a blessing from god. These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy. Her various manifestations, Kumari, Parvati and Kali are all worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman.

4th - 6th day of Navratri
During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped. On the fifth day which is known as Lalita Panchami, it is traditional, to gather and display all literature available in the house, light a lamp or 'diya' to invoke Saraswati Maa, the Goddess of knowledge and art.

7th - 8th day of Navratri
These final days belong to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colourful festival, yagna (holy fire) is performed. Ghee (clarified butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa.

Mahanavami
The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country.  

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Durga Puja Recipes

Alur dom
Potatoes (small) - 500 gms
Mustard - 1/2 table spoon
Curry leaves - 8-10 (Small)
Bay leaves - 2
Tamarind - 50 Gms
Chili Powder - 1/2 table spoon
Chilies (green) - 5
Salt according to taste
Ginger paste - 1 table spoon
Garlic paste - 1/2 table spoon
Sugar - 1 table spoon
Refined oil - 3/4 table spoon

Boil potatoes and peel off the skins. Soak tamarind in a cup of water for 10 mins. and strain the juice. Heat oil in pan and fry ginger, garlic, mustard, bay leaves with some sugar till brown. Then add the boiled potatoes & fry until the potatoes becomes golden brown. Then add chillies, kurry leaves, salt & add tamarind juice. Stir & serve hot with luchi/puri.

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Fulkopir Vada
Cauliflower - 1.
Besan - 1cup.
Oil-1 teaspoon.
Water.
Posto (poppy seeds)- 1/2 teaspoon.
Chili powder-1/2 teaspoon.
Salt to taste.
Oil for deep-frying.
Baking soda (optional)- a pinch.

Cut the cauliflower into medium sized pieces. Boil them so that they become soft on the exterior but remain hard inside.Pour besan in a large bowl and add 1 teaspoon oil. Mix thoroughly.Add water and make batter with a relatively thick consistency. Add the posto, chili powder and salt and whip batter well.  Dip the cauliflower pieces in the batter and deep-fry them.

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Luchi/Puri
Wheat Flour - 500gms
Refined oil or Ghee - 2 table spoon
Salt according to taste
Warm water to knead the flour
Oil to fry

Knead 500gms of flour, 2 tablespoon of oil & salt according to taste with warm water. Make small balls.  Flatten them into round circular form. Fry them one by one. Serve hot with other side dish.

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Mung Dal
Mung dal - 200 gms
Small whole pearl onions-10
Green chilies - 4
Milk - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1 teaspoons
Salt to taste.
Ghee - 1 table spoon
Bay leaves - 4
Whole cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon

Fry the dry mung dal in a pan over medium heat until it becomes brown. Wash and put mung dal to boil.
c. Simmer until dal is cooked. In a separate pan, heat ghee and fry the bay leaves, onions and cumin seeds for a few minutes. Pour the dal and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of milk and sugar.

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Boonde
Besan-250gms
A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
Powdered rice- 50gms
Water-1 and half cup
Oil for deep frying-1 and half cup
Sugar- 4 cups
Water- 4 cups for making syrup

In a pan heat together 4 cups of sugar and water.  Let it boil and simmer until the syrup is of medium consistency.
3. Remove from fire and allow it to cool. Blend together besan and 1 and half cup of water. Mix the powdered rice and bicarbonate of soda Heat oil in a deep pan and pour the besan mixture on the hot oil through a slotted vessel. Fry until crisp.Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Drain out the oil in a paper.While still hot pour in the prepared syrup. Continue this until the besan mixture is over. After the Bonde is soaked in the syrup remove with a slotted spoon and spread out on a flat dish.

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