Mahanavmi Durga Puja in Indore is one ritualistic festival that I don’t ever miss. This worship ritual marks Goddess Durga’s triumph over the demon Mahishasura. To cut a long story short, this traditional carnival essentially implies, the conquest of good over evil. Besides being the world’s largest open-air fair, Mahanavmi Durga Puja or Navaratri depicts the cultural distinctions of ethnic Bengal. The Pandal (enclosed area) where this Puja functions, is customarily-decorated with mango leaves, illustrations of deities, floor paintings and multifarious earthenware. In Indore, I attend Mahanavmi Durga Puja at Bengali Club in Navlakha where gaieties are honoured with rivalling passion as in Bengal.
Each year this venue is beset by the artwork in dazzling colours, and Maa Durga’s idol is centrally-placed while men women dressed in traditional attires dance around it. In the backdrop, you can hear Navami music, recitations and scripted musical pieces by various Bengali musicians. Navami marks the nine days of Navratri celebrations, which concludes on the ninth-day with a grand Durga Puja. Navratri means nine nights in Sanskrit. These 9-days are Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami. That is because Goddess Durga signifies our inner strength in nine forms. Importance of Durga Pooja grew through the British rule in Bengal. Post-independence Durga Pooja became one of the most celebrated festivals of India, typifying diversification in unity.
Each Indian state celebrates Durga Puja in their style, adding to the aesthetic appeal of this gala. Gujarat, Maharashtra and many other North and West Indian states celebrate Navratri with the traditional Garba dance. During these nine days, many Indians abstain from some kinds of food or drink as a religious observance to honour the goddess. I grew up in a small town of Madhya Pradesh, where Durga Puja was lauded, with considerable enthusiasm. This Puja at Bengali Club brings back memories of holy Havans blazing with aromatic incenses. On this day, women usually dress in red saree and place a red sindoor-tikka on their forehead. I think this Puja not only celebrates Maa Durga but also, all the other women dwelling on earth.