Over the last week we have been celebrating Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of the year and celebrated all over India. All the schools, including our own, are closed and so are most businesses, colleges, banks and government offices.
Our first task at Prabhatalloi was to give new clothes to our school children. The girls get dresses and the boys get shirts. They were very happy to get their new clothes.
Some of us also took the opportunity to visit the 700 year old palace of Kashipur, the last King of Rahr before Independence. It is only open to visitors during the days of Durga Puja.
In the days leading up to Durga Puja towns all over India put up decorations with colourful lights and a variety of Pandals. Then, for four evenings the streets are crowded with people coming to celebrate and admire the creations.
You may remember that our Guest House has a pillar of brick in the centre of the room which a man sculpted into the shape of a tree. We were pleased to learn this same sculptor won first prize for the sculptures he made at a Pandal in Purulia Town. These shapes and figures are carved out of paddy dust.
So what is the story behind Durga Puja? We would like to tell our overseas friends this story. Durga is a female goddess. In our spiritual books she appears as many different images. She is most often worshiped as the symbol of Sakti, meaning power. The story of her creation is that Mahisasur, the King of Evil and Darkness, decided to begin a long meditation in order to please the god Brahma, who is known as the creator of the world. As a reward for his devotion and the sincerity of his meditation Brahma granted him a blessing that no man would ever kill him in battle. It seemed that he would be immortal and because of this blessing Mahisasur became very powerful.
He conquered heaven and earth. Evil defeated Good and Darkness began to spread over the whole world. To save world, the other gods gathered together and combined their powers to create a beautiful and strong woman called Durga. They had realized that only a woman could now defeat Mahisasur in battle. Each god armed the new goddess a different weapon. With her strength and weapons Durga confronted Mahisasur, overpowered him and slew him. Darkness was thus defeated and the world was saved.