Durga Puja is the biggest religious celebration of the Bengali Hindus. Observed every year in the fall month of Aswin (mid-September to mid-October), the four main days of the puja bring out a universal occasion spirit and the festive air in West Bengal and particularly in its capital city, Kolkata (Ghosh, 2000). Plenty of pandals (alternative bamboo material and canvas shelters) are set up throughout the city, where the deity is housed amid the celebration. Worship is done consistently amid the celebration in the pandals by Brahmin priests, and the stage on which the idol of the goddess and her children are set, procures the holiness of sacred space amid the celebration. (Ghosh, 2000). The pandals are usually situated in any open space in the neighborhood. Recently, the absence of such spaces can prompt some pandals being situated on the roads or carriageway, in this manner affecting a temporary closure of the street for traffic amid the times of the celebration. The transformation of public space into ceremonial and ritual space makes Durga puja an exceptionally public celebration (Ghosh, 2000).
The History Of Durga Puja
Durga Puja in its present form of a yearly celebration was started in 1580 by Raja Kansanarayan of Taherpur. He was soon imitated by Raja Jagatnarain of Bhaduria in the Rajshahi region (Ghosh, 2000). In the rural territories of Bengal before the coming of the British, puja was an event to reaffirm the social solidarity of the town and division of work among the distinctive castes. The intricate arrangements required for the puja drew in the endeavors of a huge family, and individuals were allocated tasks as well as had a share in the puja. Public celebrations related with the Durga Puja have risen in the course of the most recent 200 years. Prior to the British conquering Bengal in the mid-eighteenth century, Durga Puja was a rural organization principally which was seen inside the family unit regions of the rural gentry. Be that as it may, as the port city of Kolkata turned into the capital of the British Empire in India, urban social life blossomed. The rising urban comprador first class who flourished through their administrations to the British soon organized the Durga puja among their family unit ceremonies (Ghosh, 2000).
These practices have not stayed consistent but rather experienced change as they have been appropriated and challenged by the marginal collectivities to address distinctive purposes. Hence, as the key celebration of the Bengali upper caste Hindus – Durga puja has progressively turned into a secular and hybrid entity, consolidating across the board mainstream participation from different caste and classes, and empowering ladies to rise up out of the confinement of their residential sphere to possess public spaces amid the time of the festival (Ghosh, 2000). The popularity of the festival has improved its festive perspective while disintegrating its ritual features. This has to a degree “secularized” the worship of a Hindu goddess into a cosmopolitan festival. Further, it has dislodged the elite imagination from constituting the festivities exclusively in its own image. The properties of conspicuous consumption, display, and status have now been appropriated by the non-elite segments of society also (Ghosh, 2000).
The transition from a household worship of Goddess Durga to (public) worship was made in the last decade of the eighteenth century when twelve brahmins framed a committee to direct their own Durga Puja. The committee gathered public memberships from the neighboring towns and played out a sparkling ceremony alongside different sorts of entertainment like swang (mimicry), puppetry show, Jatra (folk theater) and half akhrai (a type of bawdy singing). There was a solid relationship of public entertainment with public worship of the goddess and Durga Puja progressively turned into a period of festivity. Durga Puja was completed with grand ceremony and display in the family units of the urban elite in Kolkata (Ghosh, 2000).