Durga Puja or Navratri is an integral part of the Hindu culture in India. Celebrated in between September to November throughout the country, this Puja is considered to be one of the most complex and difficult puja out of all the Hindu ceremonies. It is a nine days long affair in which the Goddess of Power ‘ Maa Durga’ is worshipped in nine different forms namely Shailputri, Brahmcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.
It is said that worshipping Goddess Durga with full devotion brings success, luck, health and prosperity to one’s family. There are also several legends and stories associated with this Pooja, which are detailed below.
An interesting story associated with Navratri is that of ‘Kautsa’, the young son of Devdatt. It is said that after completion of his studies he insisted on his guru Varatantu to accept ‘gurudakshina’. After lots of request his Guru, finally asked for 14 crore gold coins, one crore for each of the 14 sciences he taught Kautsa. Kautsa then went to king Raghuraj, the ancestor of Rama who was known for his generosity but just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. So, Raghuraj went to Lord Indra and asked for some gold coins. Indra in return asked Kuber, the god of wealth to make rainfall of gold coins on the “shanu” and “apati” trees round Raghuraja’s city of Ayodhya. In this manner Raghu was able to fulfill his promise to Kautsa. The remaining coins were lavishly dispersed to the people of Ayodhya city. As this event happened on the day of ‘Vijaya Dashmi’, it has become a custom of this day to collect “apati” leaves and exchange it as auspicious gifts.
The significance of Durga puja has also been inscribed in the great Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’. It has been said that the Lord Ram before going on a war with the ten headed demon ‘Ravana’ did “chandi-puja and invoked the blessings of Durga so that he could become invincible. Durga, the Goddess of power, then divulged the secret to Ram how he could kill Ravana. Appropriately, Ram killed Ravana on Vijaya Dashmi, after the Navratri.
Goddess Durga is considered to be a united front of all Divine forces against the evil and wickedness existing in the society. It is said that whenever the evil would upsurge on earth, the Gods will unite together to eliminate those forces and establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity. Likewise, when the terror of the buffalo headed ‘Mahishasura’ took a toll on the life of innocent and poor devotees of the Gods, the gods in heaven decided to create an all-powerful being to kill the demon king Mahishasura. As Mahishasura was destined to be killed only a women, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh created a beautiful, magnificent woman with ten hands with their power. All the gods then furnished her with their special weapons. She was then named Durga i.e ‘the invincible’. She fought against Mahishasura for nine days (Navratri) and finally killed him on the occasion of ‘Vijayadashmi’. Durga is worshipped suring the Navratri festival all over the india and its neighbouring countries.
Story of Pandavas
Another story associated with Navratri or Durga puja has been taken from the great epic ‘Mahabharat’. It is said that on the occasion of Vijayadashmi, the Pandavas declared their true identity after spending their last year of exile in disguise. They brought down the weapons from the Shami tree which they had hung over there before entering the palace of King Virat and entering into the phase of disguise. It is said that since then the exchange of Shami leaves on the Vijayadashmi day became symbol of good, will and victory. Vjaya Dashmi marks the culmination of Navratri.