What is Durga Puja?
An annual Hindu festival that celebrates the worship of the Hindu Warrior Goddess Durga. Durga is the Goddess of strength. It is the biggest Hindu festival of the year for Bengali Hindus.
When is it celebrated?
It is celebrated between September and October. The exact date cannot be determined ahead of time because it is based on the lunar calendar. Each year, Hindus figure out the exact date by observing the cycles of the moon.
Why is it celebrated?
It is celebrated to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon (Mahishasura). The Gods created the warrior Goddess Durga to overcome the demon. She has eight arms and carries weapons such as a sword and a war discus. She sits on a lion that represents power, will and determination. Durga defeats him with her beauty. Durga Puja is a celebration to remember how good will always overcome evil.
How is it celebrated?
It is a five-day annual holiday that is celebrated similar to Ganesha Chaturthi. The festival begins by decorating statues of Goddess Durga and inviting her to come to earth. The Goddess is then worshipped with traditional rituals. At the end of the festival the statue is immersed in water. The belief is that the water is purified once Goddess Durga is placed there.
How can I teach my children about Durga Puja?
1. Talk to children about the diversity that exists in India. Did you know that Indians have approximately 120 different languages (Census 2001)? While the official language in India is Hindi, Indians also speak different languages based on the region that they are from. For example, in Gujarat they speak Gujarati. A popular festival for Bengalis who primarily live in Calcutta is Durga Puja.
2. Many Hindu Temples have statues of Durga and have spectacular celebrations during Durga Puja. Look for a community temple near you to visit “Ma Durga” during this time. Children are always fascinated by her symbolic strength with her multiple arms and elevated position above the demon.
3. Asian American museums may also have Durga on display. Here is an image of Durga from the exhibit “Gorgeous” at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.This exhibit was titled “Gorgeousness and Dangerous.”