The Origin

As the beautiful white cotton-candy clouds float against the clear deep blue sky, as the rhythmic beats of the dhaak fill the air, as the sweet smell of blossoming shiuli phool (flower) calm your soul, and the beautiful sight of white kaash phool (flower) soothe your eyes, you know that the much awaited festival of the season - Durga Pujo is around the corner.

Ever wondered how this grand festival came into being? Let us peek into the past.

Debi Durga's Origin

According to Hindu mythology Devi Durga was a power created in heaven by the Devas (Gods) Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar as "Shakti" to overcome the buffalo demon Mahishasur who had been tormenting them, the lesser Gods and Sanyasis (hermits) for long.

While Durga is worshipped in her numerous forms across the country, it is only in Bengal that the true grandeur of her power is experienced through the magnificence of the festivities held in the honour of the Goddess during Durga Pujo.

Know more about Maa Durga

Historical mentions

The history of Durga Pujo dates back to the 14th Century manuscripts, where the first mention of the Goddess is believed to be found.

The Jain text Yasatilaka by Somadeva around the 11th or 12th century speaks about the festival dedicated to a warrior goddess Durga.

A mention of the Goddess is also found in Vedic literature as well as the Ramayana and Mahabharat where Shri Ramchandra before his war with Ravana, Arjun and Yudhishtir prior to the Kurukshetra war, are believed to have worshipped the Goddess.

The 'Akal Bodhon'
of Durga

Bengalis worship Goddess Durga in the Hindu month of 'Aashwin' (around October). However, according to Hindu scriptures, Goddess Durga was traditionally worshipped in the spring. This deviation of worshipping the Goddess in autumn, which is known as 'Sharat kal' in Bengali, is known as Akaal Bodhon (literally translated as Untimely Worship)

So, why shift its celebration dates to the Autumn Season (around the months of September- October)?

History dates back to the age of Shri Ramchandra. According to the Puranas, Shri Ramchandra began the worship of Goddess Durga to empower him with her blessings to overcome the demon king Ravana who had held his wife Sita as a hostage in Lanka, during autumn.

Shri Ramchandra worshipped Devi Durga first during this time of the year by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps. Pleased with his prayers, the Goddess blessed him, led him victorious in his war against Ravana.

Coincidently, Dussehra or the slaying of Ravana by Shri Ramchandra falls on the same date as Dashami of Durga Pujo which marks the departure of the Goddess and end of Durga Pujo festivities.

Another scientifically true fact attributing reason behind the shift of Durga Puja from Basanti (spring) Durga Pujo to Sharodiyo Durga Pujo (Durga Pujo in Sharat Kal or autumn) was repeated exposure of endemics like Small Pox and measles during springtime in Bengal, many, especially children and women, missed out on the much awaited Durga Pujo celebrations.

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The Origin of
Durga Pujo in Bengal

It is believed that the worship of Durga as a warrior and her more violent form Kali began post the Medieval Era during the Sultanate period in Bengal and later spread to Assam, Odisha, Bihar and other states of India.

In West Bengal, King Surath, the Emperor of Bolipur (Now Bolpur) was the first worshipper of the Goddess then referred to as "Chandi".

It was when Emperor Surath lost all his fortune, he met by coincidence a Bengali businessman Vaishya Samadhi, who too had experienced the same fate. The duo became friends and came in contact with a hermit by the name of Medhas Muni, who advised them to worship Goddess Durga to bring back their lost fortune. Thus originated the first Durga Pujo in Bengal at Medhas Munis Ashram in the Garh Jungle region (Present day Durgapur) of West Bengal.

Emperor Surath returned to Bolipur (present Bolpur), built the first representation of the Goddess in clay and began her worship during basanta kal (spring season) - bringing back all their wealth. It is there that he began the tradition of celebrating Durga Puja every spring.

Ancient mythology (Markandeya Purana) also speaks about Emperor Surath offering Boli or animals as sacrifice to the Goddess during Durga Pujo in Bolipur, which is from where Boli got its name.

Historical artifacts from the Pala Era in Bengal also showcased "Mahishasur Mandini" or the slaying of Mahishasur by Goddess Durga, indicating that it was an important religious festival of the Pala Era.

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From Zamindari to
Baarowari and Sarbajanin

  • Zamindari
    Durga Pujo
  • In the 16th Century Bengal, zamindars (landlords) in Malda and Dinajpur are believed to have been the pioneers of the grand celebrations associated with Durga Pujo. Some other historical sources also mention of Bhabananda Mazumdar from Nadiya or Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur as being the first to have introduced the autumn Durga Puja or Sharodiya in Bengal.

    Way back in 1707, the Nawab Nazim of Murshidabad, Murshid Quli Khan encouraged Hindu zamindars like Lakshmi Kanta Majumdar to organize Durga Pujo with much grandeur in West Bengal. Some of these Bonedi Barir Pujo continue to remain amongst the most sought after heritage Pujo of Kolkata.

  • Baarowari
    Durga Pujo
  • The first so-called 'Baarowari' (twelve-friends) Pujo was organized when 12 friends from Guptipara came together to arrange the festivities in 1790. Raja Harinath of Cossimbazar is also revered for hosting the Baarowari Pujo in 1832. However, by his time, the term 'Baarowari' had evolved to represent collective efforts.

  • Sarbajanin
    Durga Pujo
  • The Sarbajanin or community Pujo meant for all and by all - gradually became a practice by 1910. Organized by Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha in Baghbazar, the first Sarbajanin Pujo had a humongous participation from the people.

    Today, the love for the eternal Goddess of Power has led to Sarbajanin Pujo everywhere. People not just in India but across the globe share their happiness, excitement and devotion.

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