People gathering in beautifully
decorated pandal for puja.
The celebration of Durga Puja goes very far back in history and
there are abundant references to it in India literature from 12th century
onwards. However, today
Durga Puja is generally a community festival. The Puja celebration over the
years has changed color often. Earlier, it was the most expensive of all
festivals and could only be performed by the rich and the powerful like
feudal lords, rajas and big businessmen. However, it always evoked great
enthusiasm and popular support.
But in today's ethos, The evolution of many clubs, associations and
societies has made the Puja cosmopolitan in character. The social and
ritualistic significance of the Puja has also been modified to a great
degree. Today, this festival has become an occasion for pageantry and
extravaganza. Age-old conch shells and drums have given way to loud film
songs and sometimes the goddess is modeled on popular film actresses. On the
flip side, animal sacrifices, a must earlier, have been dispensed with at
many places and shrines.
While earlier Durga was worshiped alone, now it is, more often than not,
the goddess with her family. Durga is portrayed as the supreme head; and the
presence of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shiva etc marks a wholesome picture of
divinity. In southern India celebrations constitute a display of images of
God and toys at home for nine days. But despite the various ways in which
this festival is celebrated the feature that is common is that of the
worship of the mother goddess.
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