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Purbasha’s Durga Puja festival: A cultural extravaganza enriched with tradition


Atlanta GA, November 10, 2023: An extravagant red backdrop, adorned with intricate silver designs and murthis (Idols) of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati, along with Lords Ganpathi and Karthik, welcomed over 1200 guests at the Purbhasha Pandal during the 13th annual Navratri Durga Puja Festival. The grand event lasted three days, from October 20th to October 22nd, 2023, at Hendricks Middle School in Cumming.

Purbasha is a well-known socio-cultural nonprofit organization based in Alpharetta, Georgia, serving the community for 13 years.

Featuring a rich tapestry of cultural performances and activities, Purbasha showcased its talented in-house performers and also welcomed two popular international artists to grace the stage.

The festivities kicked off on October 20th with electrifying performances by the well-known artist Jojo and her team, leaving the audience captivated and dancing to the beat. The crowd was serenaded by the melodic tunes of renowned artists Srikanto and Subhomita on Saturday, October 21st. Their performances added a touch of elegance and musical finesse to the event.

Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsav or Sharodo, is an annual festival that marks the victory of Goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting asura (demon) Mahishasura. It is particularly popular and traditionally celebrated in the Indian state of West Bengal. Durga Puja coincides with Navaratri and Dussehra celebrations observed by other traditions of Hinduism. The festival is observed in the lunar calendar in the month of Ashvin, which corresponds to September–October in the Gregorian calendar.

Durga Puja is traditionally a ten-day festival performed in homes and public spaces. The latter generally features a temporary stage and structural decorations (known as pandals). The festival is also marked by scripture recitations, performance arts, revelry, gift-giving, family visits, feasting, and public processions. Durga Puja in Kolkata has been inscribed on the intangible cultural heritage list of UNESCO in December 2021.

The primary goddess revered during Durga Puja is Durga, but celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (the god of good beginnings), and Kartikeya (the god of war). In Bengali traditions, these deities are considered to be Durga’s children, and Durga Puja is believed to commemorate Durga’s visit to her natal home with her beloved children.

The Purbasha Durgotsav encompassed various cultural activities, including traditional rituals like Pujo and Sandhya Aarti, where devotees paid their respects to the goddess Durga. Performed in the evenings, the legendary ‘Sandhi Puja’ is conducted as ‘Sandhya Aarti’ to purify the sins and also marks the inter-linking of Maha Ashtami with Maha Navami. The beginning of Maha Navami is known as the Sandhi time or Sandhi Puja. At this time, Devi Durga is worshipped as Chamunda (a form of goddess Kali who killed the demon Chand and Munda).

To add to the artistic charm, the festival also featured Dhunuchi Naach, a traditional dance performed with smoking clay lamps, creating a mesmerizing and mystical ambiance. Traditionally, Dhunuchi Naach involves clay pots filled with burning charcoal. People take these pots in their hands and dance to the beats of dhaak. Those who have been doing it for years hold the clay pots on their heads; sometimes, they even hold a pot by their teeth.

Durgotsav came alive with the customary Sindur Khela, where the color of vermilion eclipses the glow of other colors on Dashami, the 10th day of Durga Puja. Traditionally, married women of the Bengali community, decked in white saris with deep red borders and gold ornaments, exchange good wishes and festive greetings by smearing each other’s faces with vermilion. They offer flowers with vermilion to the obedience of Maa Durga before bidding adieu to the Goddess.

The festival is preceded by Mahalaya, believed to mark the start of Durga’s journey to her natal home. It is believed that the Goddess descended on this earth on this auspicious day, known as Chokkhudaan, and artisans paint the eyes of the Goddess on this day and bring the idol to sunlight. Primary celebrations begin on the sixth day (Shasthi), on which the goddess is welcomed with rituals. On the seventh day of Durga puja, Maha Saptami, Pran Pratishthaaaan is done. The priest is believed to bring the idol to life by reciting various Vedic Mantras. The eighth day, Durga Ashtami Pushpanjali and Kumari Puja rituals are observed. Young girls believed to be the embodiment of the goddess are worshipped. Dhunuchi dance and Sandhi Puja also happen on this day. Maha Navami, celebrated on the ninth day of Navratri, marks the final day of the battle between Goddess Durga and demon Mahishasur. People wake up early in the morning and take a bath, known as Mahasnan, and offer special prayers to the Goddess. The festival ends on the tenth day (Bijaya Dashami), when devotees embark on a procession carrying the worshipped clay sculpture-idols to a river or other water body and immerse them, symbolic of her return to the divine cosmos and her marital home with Shiva in Kailash. Regional and community variations in the celebration of the festival and observed rituals exist. The Ritual of Sindoor Khela is also observed on this day. It is believed that vermilion is the symbol of fertility, shakti, good luck, and a happy marital life.

“The festival’s success is a testament to Purbasha’s commitment to promoting cultural heritage and fostering community bonds. With each passing year, Purbasha continues to enrich and celebrate Indian traditions, bringing together a diverse audience to enjoy the beauty of this cultural extravaganza. The 13th Navratri Durga Puja Festival by Purbasha was undoubtedly a resounding triumph, and the organization looks forward to many more years of showcasing the richness of Indian culture,” Sai Saikat ‘Jay’ Chatterjee, President, Purbasha said.

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