Magical Indian Myths?
Children myths and legends are an integral part of human existence. They have been around us all the time. Indian Mythology is one of the richest elements of Indian Culture, which enriches it further and makes it a unique one in the world. Through generations, different stories in Indian mythology have been passed from generation to generation either by word of mouth or through carefully stored scriptures. Though their validity is susceptible, nobody seems to mind as they stand as a proof of the human belief in divine powers. The same can be said about Durga Puja and Dusshera, the great Indian festivals.
“Durga Puja”, also known as “Durgotsab”, actually means “The Festival of Durga”. The most important socio-cultural event for the Bengalis, Durga Puja is a five-day festival in West Bengal that is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. These five days are known as Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Bijoya Dashami.
Daksha, the king of the Himalayas and the plains, and his wife, Menoka, had a daughter called Uma. Uma, right from her childhood, started worshipping Shiva as her would be husband. Shiva, being pleased with the worship of Uma, came to marry her. Daksha did not like this tiger-skin clad groom with ash and dirt spread over all of his body. Uma got married to Shiva but was prevented by her father from moving to Kailash, the abode of Shiva. Daksha, later on, arranged for a “yajna” where everyone except Shiva was invited. Uma, feeling ashamed of the behaviour of her father and shocked by the attitude metted towards her husband, went on fast and finally died. Shiva came to know about this and went to Daksha”s house. He lifted the body of Uma on his shoulders and started dancing madly which led the world on the verge of destruction. Narayana, another SuperGod, came forward as a saviour and used his “Chakra” to cut the body of Uma into pieces. Those pieces started falling off from the shoulder of the dancing Shiva into different parts of the World. Shiva was finally pacified when the last piece fell off from his shoulder. Narayana revived Uma for a new life. Daksha, who was extremely sorry about his misdeeds, prayed for mercy and was finally forgiven. The places where the pieces had fallen are known as the “Shakti Piths” or energy pits, few of these places being Kalighat in Calcutta, Kamakhya near Guwahati among others. Ever since peace was restored, Uma, with her four children, Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Lakshmi and with her two friends- – Jaya and Bijaya, comes to visit her parent”s home each year during the season of “Sharat” or autumn when Durga Puja is celebrated.
The “Sharadiya” Durga Puja is said to have first started with the Durga Puja of Shobhabazar Rajbari. The oldest puja in Kolkata, it came to being due to the efforts of Maharaja Naba Krishna De, the founder of the Shobhabazar royal family. It is said that after emerging victorious in the Battle of Plassey, Colonel Robert Clive wanted to pay a thanks to the divine forces for his success. The Battle of Plassey was a landmark in the history of British domination in India as the victory of the British forces in this war gave the East India Company the control of Bengal. Robert Clive was the then chief officer of British East India Company and he led his forces to victory in this crucial battle, that too with minimum casualties. As the only church in Calcutta at that time was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daulah, Clive was unable to show his gratitude to God.
When Raja Nabakrishna Deb came to know of Clive’s desire, he invited the latter to his house at Durga Puja and offered his thanks at the feet of Goddess Durga. Initially Clive had some hesitations to attend the puja as in those days Christians were not allowed by the Hindus to take part in Hindu festivities. However, the mighty Nabakrishna Deb managed it all and Robert Clive paid a visit to the Shobhabazar Rajbari to offer his thanks to Goddess Durga. Thereafter, the Shobhabazar Durgotsab (Durga Puja ceremony) came to be known as the “Company Puja”.
Triumph of Sri Ram over Ravan?
From this time until the Independence of India in 1947, inviting Englishmen to Durga Puja ceremonies became a norm.
A few mythological stories behind the celebration of Durga Puja are as follows:
The Death Of Mahishasura
Mahishasura, was a demon who unleashed evil and terror all over the world. The Gods were unable to defeat him. He became fearless and his demonic activities increased day by day. Due to his increasing demonic activities the very existence of Universe was in danger.
He could not be killed by Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. This was because of a boon granted by God Brahma to Mahishasura according to which he would not be destroyed by any deity or man. He had blessing from God Brahma. According to blessing only woman can defeat and kill him. He thought woman are weak. So there is no chance that he can be defeated or killed. Gods worshipped Aadi Shakti to get rid of this demon.
Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma decided to create a powerful force to destroy the invincible Mahishasura, as they were unable to vanquish him themselves. The unified powers of all the Gods resulted in the creation of a fiery mass from which, a magnificent Goddess was born. With the light of Lord Shiva, her face was created, Lord Vishnu gave her his arms, and Lord Brahma provided her legs. She was blessed with all the powers given to her by the Gods. She also acquired her weaponry from the Devas. She was decked with jewellery, a sari and garlands. Maa Durga was also given a lion by Lord “Himalaya”, the God of the Mountains. This Goddess came to be known as “Mahadevi” (Goddess Durga), the most powerful and invincible of them all.
With the combined forces of all the Gods, Mahadevi was created who was neither Goddess nor human. With her fierce lion as her carrier, Goddess Durga (Mahadevi) rode towards the lair of Mahishasura. Riding a lion, she attacked Mahishasura. After a fierce battle, Durga transformed into Devi Chandika, the most ferocious form of the Goddess, and beheaded Mahishasura. After nine days of continuous battle the demon was finally beaten. Thus, Mahadevi also came to be known as ‘Mahishasura Mardhini’—the slayer of Mahishasura. —Aniket Raja