Pujo Rituals

Every religion follows some rituals when it comes to observing certain religious beliefs or ceremonies, including the World's Biggest Festival - Durga Pujo. From the Tarpan on Mahalaya to the Boron on Bijoya Dashami, Durga Pujo is rooted in rituals that are followed with great perseverance by the devotees of the Goddess.

Durga Pujo has its roots in history and mythology, and so does the rituals associated with it. The Hindus had set up their own customs and practices for the Goddess which have been traditionally followed over the years.

Rituals, mostly, are a reflection of the society and the people's faith, religion and beliefs that have been carried on from one generation to the next.

Some of the most common Durga Pujo rituals that have been religiously observed down the ages include the following -

Mahalaya Rituals - The Beginning of Debi Paksha

Tarpon

Mahalaya marks the start of Debi Paksha' (fortnight of the goddess) and end of the 'Pitru-Paksha' (fortnight of the fathers), the family members are expected to observe the day in remembrance of their forefathers through Tarpon. The rituals associated with Tarpon include fasting, taking dips in the holy river Ganges early in the morning and offerings of food and sweets in memory of demised relatives and family members. The Hindu ceremony of Shraadh and Pind-Daan for ancestors is also done on the day.

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Chokkhu Daan

The term 'Chokkhu Daan' literally means 'offering eyes' and is chiefly a ritual followed by the idol makers and sculptors on the day of Mahalaya. While the idol makers spend months at end to shape idols of the Goddess, the eyes of the Maa Durga are drawn on Mahalaya - marking the beginning of Debi Paksha (fortnight of the Goddess) as she opens her eyes.

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Maha Sashthi Rituals

Kalprarambha - Unveiling the face of the Goddess

Kalprarambha is a ritual observed on the morning of Sashthi, the day that marks the official beginning of Durga Pujo. This early morning (Pratahkal) ritual conducted on Maha Sashthi (the sixth day of the Devi Paksha) is done by unveiling the face of the Goddess.

The ritual involves placing a Kalash (pot) filled with water and mango leaves next to the idol of Goddess Durga. The devotees and the priest then make a Sankalp (resolution or promise) before the idol to observe and carry out the pujo ceremonies following all the rituals during the next three days - Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Maha Navami.

Pran Pratisthan - Bringing the Goddess to life

By Sashthi, the Goddess is installed in most pandals across Bengal. The priests begin the Pujo on Sashthi with Pran Pratisthan which is the gifting of life to the Goddess.

A brass vessel is placed in front of the Goddess and as the priests Maha snan mantras and conch shells are blown, the Pujo commences signifying that the Goddess is now with us.

Bodhon - Welcoming the Goddess

Bodhon means 'awakening' and this ritual is celebrated with similar sentiments. Since Sri Ramchandra had awakened the Goddess at an unconventional time (autumn instead of spring), he had to worship out-of-season (akal bodhon) to seek her blessings. Following his footsteps, every year the Goddess is awakened at dusk with 'Bodhon' for the Pujo festivities to start.

Adhibas and Amontron

Bodhon is followed by Adhibas and Amontron to welcome her amidst beats of Dhaak (local musical drum) and Shaankh (conch shell). The Goddess is worshipped with a Bel Tree and 26 objects are touched to the Goddess and the Bel tree after which a red sacred thread is tied around the Pujo area before the actual worshipping begins. The proceedings of the day end with an Aarti to the Goddess.

Maha Ashtami Rituals

Kumari Pujo

Kumari Pujo is a ritual observed on the eighth day or Maha Ashtami, when a pre-pubescent girl or Kumari is worshipped as a living incarnation of the Goddess. She is decked in new clothes and ornaments and shares the stage with the Durga idol.

Kumari Pujo, however, is not organised at all Durga Pujo pandals. Only a few observe it as a part of their tradition. The most popular destination to witness the Kumari Pujo in West Bengal is the Ramkrishna Mission Belur Math.

Maha Ashtami Anjali

The prayer and Anjali to Goddess Durga on Ashtami is believed to be the most important part of Durga Pujo festivities.

The Maha Ashtami Anjali includes chanting of mantras or special hymns in praise of the Goddess in the early hours of Ashtami. Devotees fast to offer prayers to the Goddess. The mantras chanted by the priest are religiously repeated by the devotees, as they offer flowers at the feet of the Goddess at the end of each of the three chants.

Bhog is offered to the Goddess once the Pushpanjali is over.

Sandhi Pujo

Sandhi literally translates to mean the 'juncture' and refers to the transition of the Maha Ashtami to Maha Nabami. The time window for the Sandhi Pujo constitutes the last 24 minutes of Ashtami tithi and the first 24 minutes of Navami tithi. The Goddess is worshipped in her 'Chamunda' form at this time as she is believed to be at her fiercest and had slayed two demons - Chanda and Munda. In earlier days it was customary to perform animal sacrifices at the end of Sandhi Pujo in Ashtami, however these days the practice has been discontinued and replaced with vegetable sacrifice instead.

Maha Nabami Rituals

Nabamir Pujo

The priests begin reciting the prayers for Nabami once the Sandhi Pujo of Ashtami is over. In earlier days sacrifices of buffalos were common on Nabami signifying the death of Asura, however the practice has been discontinued now. Like Ashtami, bhog is offered to the Goddess once the Pujo for Nabami is over.

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