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A Glimpse of “Durga Puja” Story and Mythology

During my childhood days, I used to visit, as many as I could, sites of Durga Puja (Puja Mondop) as there were many Hindu families living around. One of my childhood Hindu friends was Ratan Robidas. Rabidases are one of many castes within Hindu caste system. They even have their own unique language system, though not fully developed I think. I happened to listen to them speaking among themselves in that special language while I was around, when they had to say something that I should not hear or know. I didn’t understand a single word. I later learned some expressions from Ratan though. But it was not enough to understand what they talk about when I am around or anyone is around. They mostly speak Bangla otherwise.  

I along with Ratan used to visit the Durga Puja Mondops. We used to walk even many miles to visit some Mondops. Each and every Idol of Durga in every Mondop was different and unique than others in color, dressing, ornamenting, decoration etc. We were offered “Prasad” (sort of sweets during Puja). We also enjoyed Arati (offering or worshipping) in the form of dancing holding an earthen pot of incense. Back then, I had very little knowledge about the story and myth of goddess Durga except what I heard from village people. Some of the stories were true to the myth I think and some others were not. We cannot blame them. What they know is also valuable.

Over the time I had chances to read Ramayan, Mahabharat and some other scared religious scriptures of Hinduism. But still I have no very clear idea about the story of Durga goddess. Recently I have read some books and articles on Hindu religious scriptures and mythology. Yet my understanding is not clear enough due to the varied vastness of the narratives.

With the mention of goddess Durga immediately comes the name of Asura (Demon). In plain words, Durga riding on either Lion or Tiger with her eight or ten arms (Depending on the narratives) holding various weapons killing Asura is the image that is idolized for the celebration of Durga Puja. Of course it has a long history. Many sculptures have been found dated back even to 6th century depicting goddess Durga killing Asura.

Asura was a buffalo or bull demon. His name was Mahishasura. Like so many other wars, as mentioned in the history, which have taken place between representative good and bad, there was also a battle between bull demon Mahishasura and other gods (Devas. Devas and Asuras were/are always in fight either to win over evil or over good). Indra was leading the gods against Mahishasura. But Indra was defeated by the buffalo demon. Mahishasura had a boon that no “man” will be able to kill him.

After the defeat in the battle all the Devas gathered in a meeting on the top of the mountains to figure out what can be done to defeat Mahishasura. They came with the idea that a female goddess will be created with combined divine energies (Shakti, Shaktism in Hinduism) of all the Devas to defeat and kill Mahishasura as he cannot be defeated by a “man”. That newborn female goddess was Durga. She has eight or ten arms depending on the references. Each and every hand holds a particular type of weapon symbolizing the special power or energy of one Deva. In this sense, Durga might be an assemblage of energies of eight or ten Devas (gods). And Durga was given their unique and individual power in the form of weapons. Then Durga went on a battle riding Lion or Tiger to defeat Mahishasura. Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Durga.Later Durga came to be known also as “Mahishasura-mardani” meaning the Killer or Slayer of Mahishasura the buffalo demon.

Every year during autumn goddess Durga visits earth with the message of cleansing the earth of evils and demons according to Hinduism. I wish the peril and evil of COVID 19 would go away. I wish Happy Durga Puja to all. I wish each and every human being would live in peace and harmony.

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