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Pujo 2023: Dhunachi Dance & Festive Frenzy

As the leaves adorn themselves in autumnal hues 🍁, and a subtle nip fills the air ❄️, India gears up for one of its most vibrant and cherished festivals – Durga Puja. Growing up in a Bengali household, we moved around a lot because my dad was in the Airforce. But no matter where we were, the spirit of Durga Puja stayed with us. I would join in the dances, and my dad, well, he took up the role of a volunteer, helping managing the pandal 😉 Mom and the other aunts would huddle together, deep in discussions about what to wear, the lively dhunachi dance, and the competitive shanko competitions. Meanwhile, I had my own little victory to savor – winning the drawing competition year after year. So for me, this is more than just a religious celebration; it’s a moment to reconnect with the traditions, art, music, and flavors that define me 🧡

‘Pujo’ as it is lovingly referred to by countless ‘bongs,’ represents a profound celebration of our roots. It’s an annual homecoming where we rediscover our cultural identity, reunite with family and friends, and immerse ourselves in the grandeur of our rich heritage ✨

With each passing year, this grand celebration of Goddess Durga’s victory over evil takes on new dimensions and innovations, transforming into a kaleidoscope of colors, traditions, and devotion🌟 Each day of Pujo is a personal journey filled with unique rituals, cultural performances, and a deep sense of devotion to the force that keeps the world turning

Day 1: Mahalaya – The Divine Prelude

Durga Puja kicks off with the enchanting sound of Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s melodious recitation of “Mahishasura Mardini.” 🎶 Mahalaya, the first day of the festival, is a time when we wake up before the sun ☀️ to pay homage to our ancestors and invoke the goddess’s presence. This day carries the weight of tradition, connecting generations with its soul-stirring invocation, marking the beginning of a week of celebration🌄

Day 5: Panchami

Panchami, the fifth day, marks the beginning of the actual celebrations🎉 It’s when the beautifully crafted idols of Goddess Durga are unveiled and displayed in the ‘pandal.’ 🏰 The ‘pandal’ is a decorated temporary structure where the idol is housed, and each one boasts unique themes and artistry 🎨

Day 6: Shashthi

Shashthi is the sixth day of the festival, and it continues the celebrations with more elaborate rituals and cultural performances🎶 We offer their prayers and make offerings to Maa Durga, and the ‘dhak’ (traditional drums) add to the rhythmic and festive ambiance. 🥁 The streets are filled with processions and ladies are dressed in their finest attire, making it a sight to behold

Day 7-9: Saptami, Ashtami, and Navami

These three days are a time of immense joy and festivity when we gather at the ‘pandal’ to offer our prayers and participate in the cultural programs💃 In the evenings, the ‘pandal’ transforms into a stage where traditional dances, music, and drama performances take place, beautifully showcasing the rich cultural heritage 🎶

As Ashtami and Navami approach, many of us observe strict fasts as a mark of our devotion to Maa Durga. We lovingly prepare and offer ‘bhog’, which is later distributed as ‘prasad’ 🥘🙌

On Navami, a day filled with excitement, married women participate in the ‘Sindoor Khela,’ a celebration of applying vermillion not only to Maa Durga but also to each other. This ritual symbolizes the strength and unity of women💪❤️

Day 10: Dashami

Dashami, the tenth day, is a poignant moment in the festival. It’s a bittersweet day, as we prepare to bid farewell to Maa Durga. 😢The idols, which we have lovingly worshiped for days, are gently immersed in the river, symbolizing the departure of our beloved Maa Durga to her heavenly abode. This ritual is known as ‘Visarjan’ 🌊 On this day, our hearts are heavy with emotion, and we exchange heartfelt embraces and tearful goodbyes, making promises to return next year for the grand celebration once more. 💫

I must tell you, Pujo isn’t just a festival; it’s an immersion into the soul of Bengal. It’s a living, breathing experience that weaves bonds and kindles the cultural spirit. As we reluctantly prepare to bid farewell to Maa Durga and the enchanting pandals, my heart is already yearning for next year’s celebration, much like the longing for the next chapter in an enthralling book 😊

So, if you haven’t already, I urge you to visit the pandal near you. Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Durga Puja; it’s an experience that no book can quite capture. With two more days to go, there’s still time to dive into this vibrant story, to experience the festivities, and to create memories that will warm your heart until the next year’s grand celebration ✨


Bibliophile Parul


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