By Sitanshu Shekhar Sahoo
Durga Puja stands as one of the major Hindu festivals in India, celebrated with grandeur throughout the nation. This spectacular celebration finds its deepest roots in the Indian state of West Bengal and spreads its fervor to other regions like Bihar, Assam, Tripura, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, as well as in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
The festival of Durga Puja is a joyous and enthusiastic occasion, observed during the month of Ashwin according to the Indian calendar, typically falling in September or October. It commemorates the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura, symbolizing the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Durga embodies strength and power, and the festival spans an exciting 10-day period, during which devotees fast for nine days, known as Navaratri, to seek the blessings of the Goddess Durga and protect themselves from malevolence. The festivities culminate on the tenth day, known as Vijay Dashami, when the idols are immersed in rivers.
Durga, originally the daughter of the Himalaya and Menka, later assumed the role of Sati in her union with Lord Shiva. The festival of Durga Puja is believed to have its beginnings in the time when Lord Rama worshipped the goddess to obtain the power needed to defeat Ravana. Another mythological account traces the story of Uma or Parvati, the daughter of King Daksha, who married Shiva and, in her form as Durga, became the protector of the realms.
Durga Puja signifies the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura and represents the embodiment of female power, known as ‘Shakti,’ within the universe. This 10-day celebration, comprising the last four days named Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Vijay Dashami, serves as a crucial link connecting people to their cultural and societal roots.
Durga Puja Celebration in Puri:
Puri, the land of fairs and festivals, holds its own unique celebration of Durga Puja, referred to as ‘Gosani Yatra.’ Distinct from other regions, Puri pays homage to Goddess Durga in the form of Gosani. This tradition, called Gosani Yatra, has its origins dating back to the 11th century during the reign of King Chodgang Dev.
The term ‘Gosani’ carries various meanings, one of which signifies the associated divine energies of the Supreme. In Puri, ‘Kakudikhai’ is believed to be the Supreme Goddess and the foremost among the Gosani.
In Puri, the Gosani Yatra finds its roots in the rich tapestry of folk culture. Several places, such as Kakudikhai, Barabati, Janhi Mundia, Janhikhai, Panapriya, Hadabai, and Gelabai, are known for celebrating Gasani Puja. The oldest and tallest idol, ‘Barbati Gosani,’ stands at an impressive 20 feet and is worshipped with eight hands. During the ‘Bhasani Yatra,’ all the Gosanis from different streets come together in a grand procession in front of the Jagannath Temple to pay their respects to Lord Jagannath. This event attracts a massive crowd from Puri and neighboring villages. Finally, the idols are ceremoniously immersed in the nearby rivers and the sea, marking the culmination of this splendid festival.