To the beat of the dhaak, the annual festivities are set to start. Mahalaya, the day when Goddess Durga was created with an aim to destroy all evil powers in the universe, marked the beginning of one of the biggest festivals in the country Durga Puja. It’s an invitation to the Goddess to start her journey from Kailash to Earth along with her four children Lakshmi, Ganesha, Saraswati and Kartik. Hence, the Bengali bandhus are gearing up to discuss everything and anything regarding the preparations to celebrate the sacred feminine.
Long rituals and celebrations
Talking about the procedure, Ranjan Roychowdhury, president of Hyderabad Bangalee Samity, narrates, “Dwitiya is the second day when the Goddess is worshipped as Brahmacharini, followed by Tritiya, Chaturthi and Panchami. On Shashthi, the sixth day, the idol of the Goddess is placed inside the pandal. On this day, the face of the Goddess is uncovered, which is followed by rituals with the rhythmic beating of the dhaak.”
Saptami marks the beginning of the puja. Maha Ashtami is the day when Maa Durga slew the buffalo devil Mahishasura. Maha Navami begins with the end of the Sandhi Puja. The festival ends on Dashami, the tenth day. This is followed by Sindur Khela where married women splash sindur on each other, as a prayer for long life and prosperity for the family, he adds further.
The final act is the immersion of the idols where the Goddess is sent back to her home, a ritual which is known as Bisarjan, with bands and much dancing.
Durgotsav is also the time to feast your eyes on the magnificence of the countless pandals that will mushroom across the city. The holy ritual of this festival involves ten days of fast, worship and celebration. However, it is the last five days – Shashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami – that grab much attention.
Adding to this, Ranjan says, “Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga, shown astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her arms, depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasura, which is the significance of this festival; i.e., killing the evil.”
For the Bengali community, it is the time to seek blessings from Maa Durga. The elaborate pandal not only houses the idols, but also hundreds of visitors who pay homage to the Goddess. The concept of community pujas also brings people together, regardless of their social strata.
“This is our 77th year and our team has always assured that the celebration is hassle-free. Also, we have received a lot of support from the Government of Telangana. The flavour of puja may have changed, but the fervour of the festival at our Bangalee Samity remains the same,” he shares.
Abuzz with activity
From shopping to hogging, these pandals host numerous food and artefacts stalls, cultural activities and performances on makeshift stages. The spirit reaches its zenith during the bhog that consists of khichuri, chachari, beguni, chatni, mishti doi, luchi, pulao, rasogulla, among others. People queue up at the counters, chanting — Bolo Durga Maa ki jai to infuse life and spirit amongst those at the pandal.