Tag Archives: Durga Puja

Hindu Festivity: Durga the Demon Slayer
Invocation of the goddess with a community dance. Photo: Partha Banerjee.

Invocation of the goddess with a community dance.

This week, for four days, we have our wonderful, colorful, fun-filled, music-filled Hindu religious festivities. The religious part is called Durga Puja, or invocation of Goddess Durga. But truly, for many of us, it's as much cultural as it is religious. The essence of the religious part is that Goddess Durga, the divine force with ten hands symbolizing ten directions and powers, vanquishes Asura the demon. As with many other Hindu religious observances, the idols and their manifestations are all symbolic. As Swami Vivekananda the great monk from India said it in America many years ago, we do not worship the idols. We worship the powers they symbolize. Our gods and goddesses and pujas and rituals are high art, as they almost always carry symbols, and metaphors and inner nuances. Plus, the way the artisans build the clay idols are purely celestial art. I guess, we celebrate the artists and their creations too. Indian religious festivities are also never complete without sumptuous food. In places like Bengal where I come from, we have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. On some days, we choose to go vegetarian. On some others, it's mixed with the sacrifice of a goat or lamb. But traditionally, we do not use onions or garlic to cook the sacrificial meat, on these days. And Hindus do not eat beef, nor they eat chicken or pork on religious days. But I am only talking about urban or middle-class Indians -- people and communities I am familiar with. A mixture of rice and lentils -- also known as khichri -- is an important part of the offering. All the food we take at the puja premises are food offered by the priest to the goddess first, before the worshipers and followers get to eat it. Because it is offered to the goddess first, we call it prasad (in Bengali or Hindi), or prasadam (in South Indian languages such as Tamil or Telugu). Durga Puja is also full of autumn fruits. And flowers too. This is the time when India is beautiful weather; fruits and flowers are beaming with beauty and prosperity. Monsoon has just passed, and Mother Earth is lush with bright sun, moderate temperatures, and clear skies. The famous mango and blackberry season has passed, and the cooler orange season has not begun yet. But fruits such as sugarcane, banana of many varieties, papaya, grapefruit, guava, apple, pear, pomegranate, coconut, ripe jackfruit, etc. etc. are abundant. Fruits and many different flowers would be laid out on freshly cut, dark green banana leaves, and that layout itself is a work of art.
Night-flowering Jasmine Nyctanthes arbor-tristes. Shiuli in Bengali. Abundant in autumn.

Night-flowering Jasmine Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. Shiuli in Bengali. Abundant in autumn.

When we were small, we did not know the significance of the religious aspects. We would chant the Sanskrit prayers sung by the priest in awe, without knowing the meaning. But we would be very much looking forward to the food and desserts that came after the offering was over. It was a mouth-watering experience. And talking about desserts -- no Indian festivities are complete without desserts. In the Southern parts of India, coconut is an integral part of much of the food and desserts too. In the Northern Indian states such as Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Bihar, Orissa or Uttar Pradesh, desserts are primarily made out of cow or buffalo milk. And it is true that sweets from Bengal are famous all across India. Our delicacies such as Rosgolla and Sandesh and sweet, homemade yogurt are items no Indians have the heart to refuse. And then, music. In places like Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi or Bangalore, all the biggest community pujas are followed by music festivals, where well-known or budding artists would come to sing, or play their sitar, sarod and tabla. Durga Puja is fun. Mother Durga destroys the evil forces in us, and renews our peaceful, pious beginning for a new year. She is the ultimate force who helps us to keep free of human vices. To the Mother, we pray for peace, resilience and strength. We say, "Jai Ma Durga."
Durga Puja in Albany, New York. Photo: Partha Banerjee.

Durga Puja in Albany, New York. Photo: Partha Banerjee.

Authentic Diwali & Dusserah Festival Recipe
Durga Puja art 2October and November are two of the most festive months in the Hindu calendar. Dusserah is observed on the tenth day of the autumn lunar calendar when after a four-day celebration (or puja) of Goddess Durga, devotees bid her adieu. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and success, appears on the full moon immediately after. In Bengal, where we came from, Lakshmi is also known as one of the two daughters of Durga, the other daughter being Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Along with two sons Ganesh and Kartik and these two daughters, Durga descends from the Himalayas where her husband Shiva lives, to pay an annual visit to her parents’ home on mortal earth. Religion and scripture have taken various easy-to- understand forms in various parts of India. In Bengal and eastern provinces, Hinduism has taken on a least rigid shape. It has a long history with other religions, and two centuries of British colonization. Then, in a fortnight, on the new moon, Diwali happens, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. All across India, and in households of Indian origin across the globe, regardless of their religion, Indians celebrate this secular festival, which also is known as Kali Puja, or the invocation of Goddess Kali. Fireworks – big and small – light up the sky, all night long. More...
This is a Very Sweet Time :-)
Indian SweetsThis is really the time for sweets. Indian sweets. Bengali sweets. Punjabi sweets. Delhi sweets. Bombay sweets. You name it. The time between Durga Puja in West Bengal and East Bengal (now Bangladesh) -- in early October -- and Diwali in Punjab, Gujarat, Delhi and others parts of India -- in late October -- is the time when people visit their friends and relatives. We touch the elder's feet in reverence. They bless us by putting their palm on our forehead. Men and women of equal age embrace each other in affection and love. More...
Food, Fun, Festivity and Hinduism
The Deities and the Devotees.

The Deities and the Devotees.

Written by Partha Banerjee of One Final Blog _________ October is the season for our Hindu religious and social festivity. Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja, followed by Diwali, Brother's Day, and many more. Not too many people know here in America. But it is truly a fascinating, colorful time for us. Because all of the religious celebrations and pujas are linked with food and fun. Food fun. And fun food. 🙂 And to me, it’s more about food and fun than religion and rituals. Hindu religious festivals are absolutely, brightly colorful with mouth-watering food. And what’s more, because it’s directly linked with the sacred events, the food is actually even more healthy and pious than the often-extravagant and spicy Indian dishes. And you can’t complain about good, delicious Indian food with carefully preserved health qualities, can you? More...
Goddess Durga and Godly Food
Jodhpur Park Durga Puja

Goddess Durga the Demon Slayer.

Goddess Durga with her ten hands and four children are here. She rides the lion and vanquishes the Asura – the demon. We celebrate her arrival on earth.


The four-day celebration has just begun. It’s that time when in India and Bengal and wherever we are, religion melts with social traditions, rituals melt with art, and fun melts with food.


Hindu Durga Puja is all about society and religion, fun and frolicking, and art and food.


And artistic food. You would miss out a lot if you didn’t know.


Let me help you to know.