Durga Puja is an important Hindu festival in India. It is also known as 'Durgotsab' or 'Navratra'. It is basically a ten days long festival in which Durga or Shakti, the Goddess of power is worshipped. The Goddess is worshipped in nine different forms namely Shailputri, Brahmcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri in a long and intricate affair. Though this festival is celebrated throughout the country, the zeal and enthusiasm of the celebrations in the northern belt of the country in the state of West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Tripura is incomparable to any other place. The celebrations in the capital of West Bengal, Kolkata is renowned all over the world.
Durga Puja falls between the autumn months of September end to November beginning. The dates of the Pooja are decided according to the Hindu religious calendar. Most of the religions now follow either a solar calendar or a lunar calendar. But for the majority of Hindus, it is a combination of both and a sole decider of the dates of the religious celebrations. According to the Hindu solar calendar, Durga Pooja falls begins on the first day of Ashwin month and go on till the nine days of the month. The days are counted in accordance with sun rise and sun set. However, timings of all religious ceremonies are decided according to the lunar months.
The religious ceremonies of the Hindu Bengalis are as per the traditions and are scheduled in accordance with the timings of the moon's movement, which is called as 'Tithhi'. Thus, the entire schedule of the Puja is also structured on the basis of the 'Tithhi'. The Devi Paksha i.e. the fortnight in which the Puja falls is decided in with the auspicious occasion of the Mahalaya (the day which indicates the homecoming of Mother Goddess), which falls on the day of the New moon.
The Durga Pooja is celebrated for nine days. However the last six days are more festive than the first three. From the day of Shashti i.e the sixth day, community gathering, celebrations and feasts begin with immense fervor. The last four days of Puja begins from the sixth day of the full moon phase that follows the Mahalaya and finishes with the Dashami or the tenth day. In between these six days, there are different kinds of special ceremonies on Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami. In the wee hours of 'Saptami,' the 'Pran' or life of the Devi is brought from a nearby pond or river in a banana tree and installed inside the idol. Customs like 'Sandhikshan,' the crossover time between Ashtami and Navami are also done in accordance with the 'ghadi and tithi' as per the calendar. Then on the last day, Dashami is celebrated. It is four days short of the full moon night, called Kojagori Purnima.
Durga Puja Calendar 2014: Tuesday Sep 30 ~ Saturday, Oct 04, 2014
30th September 2014 - Shashti
1st October 2014 - Saptami
2nd October 2014 - Ashtami
3rd October 2014 - Navami
4th October 2014 - Vijaya Dashmi