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Durga Puja in India: Largest Open Air Art Expo
2015/10/27

Durga Puja, the most important festival in West Bengal, India, fell on the period from 19 to 22 October 2015. Kolkata, the city with over 14 million residents and the capital of West Bengal, boasted over 20,000 pandals, a kind of temporary structures set up to venerate Goddess Durga.

Large Crowds Go to Worship Goddess Durga

Every community would have its own meticulously designed and decorated pandal, and in some areas one could see two pandals within a short distance of less than 100 meters. The pandals, made of bamboos, wood, cloth, foam and other materials, would look like real palaces, temples, pagodas with their various shapes, colors and decorations.And the sculptures of the idols would look expressive, enlightening, vivid and divine. Given the above, the annual Durga Puja brings about the largest open air art exhibition in the world, and it is not only a religious festival, but also a tremendous social and cultural event.

   

Streets Light Up on Durga Puja Evenings

Goddess Durga is found in the middle of the stage inside a pandal, and the buffalo demon Mahishasura is struggling at her feet. On her left and right are the 4 children born to her and her husband Shiva.From the audience's perspective, one sees from left to right Ganesha, Lakshmi,(Durga,) Saraswati and Kartik (or Kartikeya), who are respectively the god of wisdom, the goddess of wealth, the goddess of knowledge and arts, and the god of war. And in Hinduism, Lakshmi and Saraswati are said to be consort of Vishnu and that of Brahma respectively.

   

A Pandal Made of 200,000 Coconut Shells                         Goddess Durga Is All Vitality

 

According to Hindu legends, Durga wass a most beautiful goddess born out of the blaze blown out by Shiva and Vishnu to save the other gods from the demon Mahishasura. She came with the golden glaze of 1000 suns, mounting on a lion. She had ten hands and holds a lethal weapon in each of them. She had a third eye just above the space between her other two eyes, and would let out of her forehead the ultimate terminator Goddess Kali.

   

Crowds Line Up to Enter Pandal                                   Goddess Durga and Her Family

Durga, symbolizing the triumph of good over the evil and believed to be the malevolent aspect of Goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva, has been worshiped as an important goddess in Hinduism for a very long time. However, she has received more worship than other gods or goddesses only after India became independent in August 1947, and mostly in areas inhabited by Bengalis.

   

Shiva: the Colorful God                                                   Bull Nandi: Shiva's Mount

Durga Puja became increasingly popular in Bengal starting from the 18th century. And in the early 19th century, some Hindu reformers identified Durga with India, and she thus became the symbol of the Indian independence movement. Being the center of this movement, Kolkata has a special connection with Durga, and many of its residents would fondly call her Mother Durga.

West Bengal, Tripura, Assam are the states where Durga Puja is the most important festival, and it is also the case in some regions in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and other areas in East India.

Puja means worship in Hinduism, and the dates for Durga Puja are calculated by the Bengali calendar, falling in September or October. It usually lasts four or five days, and Immersion is the last day, when the goddess is sent to the Ganges or its tributary so that she can go back home.

Young Girl in Traditional Indian Costume

During the festival, government offices, schools and businesses are closed. People would put on new clothes and decorate their homes with colorful lights. In the evenings, people would go to the pandals to listen to the priests chanting mantras in Sanskrit, and pray that the goddess would bless them. Or they would fill the streets to enjoy the festival atmosphere, singing and dancing at or near the pandals.

  Consul General Ma Zhanwu Donated to Puja Committee

 

    

Mr. Ma Zhanwu Beat Dhak (Drum) in Puja Inauguration               Mr. Ma Takes Part in Best Pandal Scoring 

Durga Pujia is also a big festival in some places in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Australia, Europe and North America where a concentration of Hindu Bengalis is found.

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