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Traditions and Customs of Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the most popular festival of West Bengal. Celebrated with great prompt & splendor, it marks the worship of Goddess Durga. The main highlights of this festival are singing, dancing, gaiety customs and celebrations. People express good wishes and send Durga Puja Gifts to dear ones.
Maha Shashti
According to the mythology, Goddess Durga arrives to the mortal world from her heavenly adobe, with her children. Her arrival on earth is welcomed by the devotees with much fanfare, amidst the beats of dhaak and dholak, local drums. The unveiling of the face of the idol of Goddess Durga is the main ritual that takes place on Maha Shashti. Besides, rituals like Bodhon, Amontron and Adibas are performed before the commencement of the main Puja.

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Maha Saptami
With the first rays of the sun on Maha Saptami (the seventh day), a banana tree is dressed as a new bride in yellow silk cloth with a red border, the ritual is known as Kola Bou Snan. The priest carries the tree in a grand procession from the Ganges to the Durga Puja pandal (big tent) accompanied by the drummers. A divine ambiance wraps the air. Kola Bou or Navapatrika is taken to the Lord Ganesha as his bride.

In this ritual, nine types of plants are worshipped as a symbol of Goddess Durga. Kalparambho and Mahasnan are preceded by the Mahasaptami puja.

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Maha Ashtami
The next day or Ashtami was traditionally the buffalo sacrifice day to commemorate the victory of the Goddess over the buffalo-demon Mahishasura. However, there are no more sacrifices on the day, vegetables like gourds have replaced the buffalos.

The devotees of Goddess Durga start the celebrations of Maha Ashtami with the recital of Sanskrit hymns in community puja pandals offering anjali to the deity. The worship of little girls, called Kumari puja, is the main attraction of the day. In the evening, Sandhi puja is conducted, which marks the inter-linking of the Maha Ashtami with Maha Navami.

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Maha Navami
Maha Navami, the ninth day, is the main day of Durga Puja. The day begins after the end of Sandhi puja. 'Maha Arti' that is considered a formal end of religious customs followed by the merriment, music and dance. On Maha Navami, the navami bhog is offered to the deity. This food takes the shape of Prasad, which is taken by the devotees.

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Vijoya Dashami
Vijoya Dashami is the last day of Durga Puja, when a tearful farewell is offered to the deity. This process is called Visarjan, wherein a grand send-off is arranged by the devotees. The idol of Goddess Durga, amidst a long procession of devotees, is brought to the nearest river or lake, to immerse it. This event is also called Vijaya Dashami.

People after Visarjan offer sweets and married women smear each other with vermilion known as Sindoor Khela. It is also a time for social get together.

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