Bangladesh FESTIVAL MUST-SEE: DURGAPUJA EXPERIENCE DURGAPUJA
October 9–19, 2018
Durgapuja celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over an evil buffalo demon with her divine feminine energy, called shakti. This arresting scene is reproduced on pandals across Bangladesh’s Hindu community, depicting Durga seated on a lion, slaying the demon, surrounded by her husband and four children. These pandals – mobile temples made of bamboo and colourful cloth (often embellished with great creative liberty) – house a tableau of idols made by artisans over four months with clay, glass or other materials.
The painting of Durga’s eyes is left until last, and completed in a ritual called Chokkhu Daan, which precedes the 10-day festival of fasting and feasting. What began as a simple celebration has evolved into fierce competition between neighbourhoods to outmatch one another with lavish decorations and themes. It is also common to go “pandal hopping”.
During the first five days, devotees pray to Durga at home. A young virgin girl is also chosen among the community and becomes a manifestation of the goddess after a special ritual. Worshipping this Kumari Puja is believed to improve a woman’s divinity, as the pure child encapsulates the feminine powers of creation and stability. The last day sees the pandals carried in processions of frenzied singing, dancing and drumming. The idols are immersed in water to represent Durga’s reunion with her husband, and married women anoint their faces with crimson powder as a prayer for long life and prosperity.