Durga Puja 17


Yesterday we popped to the supermarket to buy some paneer (I made paneer tikka last night!). During Navratri, we have visited some of the hundreds of pandals in Nagpur. A pandal is a tent type structure, built with bamboo and fabric, which holds an idol inside. I guess you could call them temporary temples where Lord Ganesh is worshipped during Ganesh Chaturthi, and Goddess Durga is worshipped during Navratri.

Last night we came across a Bengali celebration called ‘Durga Puja’. I have heard so much about Durga Puja, I really needed to see this! Durga Puja is celebrated during the last four days of Navratri, this festival is all about good triumphing over evil! Last night, Durga puja began!

During Durga Puja, Mother Durga is a worshipped in her opulent, ten armed, warrior form! The Bengali way of making idols is beyond breathtaking and, unlike the Marathi style, she is accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh and Kartikeya (the second son of Parvati and Lord Shiva). The small details, the huge eyes, the ornaments, the long curly black hair… spectacular! Durga Puja for Bengalis is what Diwali is for the rest of India, prior to the festival there are months of excitement, anticipation and preparations! 

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Goddess Durga comes to Earth for her devotees! The legend of Durga Puja (because I am all about knowing the legends behind these festivals) goes a little like this…

Mahishasur, a Buffalo Demon, persistently prayed to Lord Brahma for many years. Lord Brahma saw his devotion and granted him his biggest wish, to become invincible Once he got what he wanted, he started a ravenous rampage across the world, destroying everything he came in contact with. Once the world was ruined, he wanted to kill the Gods themselves. The Gods created a force more powerful than Mahishasur, the divine feminine, Goddess Durga. In each of her ten hands she carried the most deadly weapons on heaven and Earth, and she destroyed that undestroyable demon. 

Goddess Durga later blessed Lord Ram, in the Hindu epic The Ramayana, just before he killed the demon Ravana who has holding Lord Rama’s wife hostage. On Friday, there is another festival (yes, Hinduism has a lot of festivals!) to celebrate Lord Ram’s victory! Here in Nagpur, a huge model of Ravana is going to be burnt to the ground!

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Inspired by the first Bengali pandal, we went to visit a second! Oh my gosh, it was so beautiful!! The Bengalis really know how to make idols! I could have spent hours looking up at her face, the beauty of Goddess Durga was completely overwhelming. I am lost for words to describe it further, just look for yourself…

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There is usually a flurry of excitement when people see a foreigner among them, but this time we got a little more than we expected. As we were worshiping the idols, one of the men in the pandal asked us to offer some coconuts to Goddess Durga. I love Goddess Durga, so I was enthusiastic to do so! We then found ourselves dressed up red material (I don’t know if it has as special name), which had been blessed by the Goddess, and our photograph being taken by several people!

We had just popped to the supermarket to get paneer, I hadn’t a speck of makeup, my hair was a messy (luckily they wanted to cover my head), I had even forgotten to put on a bindi before going out! I guess you should always be ready for anything, life in India is a lot of things, but boring? Never!

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Once we were back in the car, with our coconuts and blessed material, my husband said how awkward it was because he didn’t know what was going on, these traditions are Bengali and he is Marathi. The confusion and attention hadn’t bothered me, then I realised that the majority of my life in India involves: awkwardness, too much attention and utter bewilderment! I guess I have become accustomed to it. Progress!

‘Welcome to my world’, I said.

It’s now one of my dreams to spend Durga Puja in Kolkata, Bengal! The birth place of Durga Puja, Kolkata is where the festival really comes alive, with over two thousand pandals, street lights and parties. Hopefully next year! Happy Durga Puja everyone!!!


About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


17 thoughts on “Durga Puja

  • Nicola

    So lovely that the response to your presence was to embrace you and make you a part of the puja… rather than all the “Where are you from? What are you doing here?” stuff.

  • mydesilove

    Yay Bengali celebration! It’s really big in R’s family and we’ll going to celebrate this weekend in Ealing I think 🙂 I love goddess Durga, she’s so strong and protective x

  • Priya

    Why are you making your life with your husband and intercultural love in general seem like such a cakewalk? Life as a married couple is no walk in the park, no matter how wonderful your husband is. Why is it so important to you to advertise yourself and gloss over the regular difficulties, misunderstandings and resentments that are only natural in an intercultural relationship? Especially when you are a foreigner who chose to go to India for love. Why are you so fascinated by Hinduism? Is there nothing in your birth religion that gave you meaning? After all, all religions were born out of the same insecurities and human needs. Is it the exoticism that makes all these new traditions fascinating to you? You are not Hindu unless born into it. Are you ok with women not being able to enter the kitchen and participate in puja because they are menstruating? Do you wake up at 5 to prepare puja and the whole family’s lunch from scratch? Are you proud to be judged on your capacity as a wife by the roundness of your chapattis and your forgiveness? Do you know to what extent your opinion matters? I do not mean this as any disrespect whatsoever, but do you actually know where loyalties lie? Do you know yourself dear? Do you know what makes you happy, do you know your limits, do have a life plan? Contrarily to what you would have most of your readers believe, Love is not everything…. At least not the way most girls think about it…. Real Love needs to be learned, and the way is not easy. Love is not just an infatuation, but a decision. And before you judge me as a troll, I have been married and living in India for the past 3 years, after a LDR of a year and a half. You just sort of pissed me off with your endless seemingly “happy ending” stories, whose ending is actually only the very beginning. You make everything sound so easy when it is lying and false information. Nothing in life is easy my dears, and I think God does not judge our piety but rather our mettle, our maturity and our resolve. Despite our “faith”, we are what we choose to make of ourselves, and it is our soul responsibility….

    Signed,
    The Honest Pardesi Wife

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hi Priya,

      Let me just tell you this… these are the happiest months of my entire life!! Before I met my husband I suffered from depression for over a decade and I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship for two years. If you read my whole blog you will see that I wrote about how I suffered to adapt to India and the culture, as well as my depression and anxiety disorder, but these last couple of months I have been extremely happy. Maybe I am writing about my life as if it were a ‘cake walk’ because for us, it really is, especially compared to our lives before we met.

      I am not going to write about intercultural problems because me and my husband don’t have any between us, yes with his family (which I have written about) but not between us! That is one of the many reasons I decided to allow others to write about their intercultural love, so readers could get a broader perspective. I am not responsible for what they are writing, but I am glad I can share a positive side to intercultural love. There are plenty of other blogs which really assess the problems that can arise, but as they have not arisen for me, I am not qualified to write about them.

      I found my happiness, and I am really sorry that it pisses you off. I hope that you find yours. My husband and I don’t have any resentments or misunderstandings between each other. We have the same opinions and values, we work together. I am thankful to have found my soulmate, I am sorry if you feel it is false. If you do feel that way then you don’t have to read my blog. After being in an abusive relationship, he is like my angel.

      So, you ask me why I am fascinated by Hinduism? Several reasons. A couple of years before I met my husband I was in severe depression, really bad, and I came across a copy of the Gita in a bookshop. Reading it really helped me cope and find a way to smile again, years later when I first spoke to my husband, we both spoke about how that book changed our lives. Second reason, I live in a Brahmin household, Hinduism is very important here and I am really enjoying being a part of it, it’s helped me build relationships with my new family. When you marry a Hindu, you also become a Hindu, that is a fact. I would classify myself as a Christian Hindu because me and my husband also attend Church as well as temple, but I haven’t got around to blogging about that yet. I think each religion is a path to God, it’s your choice with one you follow. My personal belief. Thirdly, when I first came to India I still had depression and anxiety disorder, attending temple every day not only helped me get out of the house but gave be solace and comfort. I felt more connected with my spirituality and it helped me heal some of the issues in my past.

      Spirituality is individual, I don’t expect to understand your spirituality and even though I have tried to explain mine, I don’t expect you to understand mine either.

      As for the menstruation thing, my family is full of priests and they see these rules as outdated. Back in the day, before sanitary towels, it was necessary. But now (thankfully) we have ways of dealing with our menstruation. Do I wake up at 5am and cook the entire families lunch from scratch? No, I wake up at 6am and walk my dog, then make breakfast for my husband and I. You ask about my round rotis? My family laugh about the fact that my roti is awful, so I don’t make them.

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘where my loyalties lie’, I guess you have had an extremely different experience to me. But YES, after so much tragedy, sadness and introspection in my life, I DO know myself, I know myself VERY well. I am really loving my life right now, I am grateful for everything I have. All these problems you are talking about are not present in my life, if they are, I would tell you about them!

      Love is everything to ME, it might not be everything to you… but to me, love is the meaning of life (I’m not just talking about romantic love, I am talking about all types of love; family, friends, nature, God). I don’t judge you for feeling differently, it’s just my opinion and you have your right to yours. Like I said, I suffered so much before I met my husband but I don’t want to wallow in my past, I am looking forward and discovering this new country day by day.

      I am not writing false information, I really am not. I don’t think you have the right to claim that I am because you haven’t come to Nagpur and met me or my husband. ‘We are what we chose to make ourselves’, you are right. I have chosen, after years of misery, to be a positive and happy person. The strength I get from love, Hinduism and Christianity has helped me overcome my demons.

      I am honest, I speak from my heart. I have written about the good times and the bad times, it’s just lately… I have had a lot of good times. I THANK GOD FOR THAT!!

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Hilary!
      I read somewhere that it is distinguish Gods from humans, I think in Durga’s case here… she needed all the arms for all of her weapons!! 😀 xxx

  • friend

    @Lauren

    The red fabic material is called Chunri which is offered to Goddess Durga along with sindoor, flowers and other items. It is more like a blessing of the goddess Chunri is more of a north indian thing. Bengalis offer sairs to the goddess. That you and your husband got the opportunity of wearing is very auspicious. This is because you had the great desire to see Goddess Durga. The goddess found a way to reach you.

    You husband was rightly bewildered because he is not aware of bengali customs. Hindus all over the country worship the same gods, follow the same customswith slight variations here and there, but differentiate between communities. This is a collective problem of Indians I guess. We ar similar but also very different.

    Mahisaura mother was a buffalo and his father was a demon. Thus, he had the ability to change himself into to a buffalo. Mahis actually means buffalo in Sanskrit. Actually, it was a marriage of two people belonging to two tribes in reality. More like the world’s first inter cultural marriage. When his father died in battle, his mother jumped into the funeral fire out of grief. She was carrying him in her womb at that time. Out the funeral pyre of his parents, Mahisaura rose up and roared. Since he was demon, he quickly grew from a infant to a full adult rapidly. However, these are all fascinating mythological stories. I saw this particular event in a TV serial.

    Mahishasure actually got the boon that he cannot be killed by any man. He said that “If a man cannot kill me, then I have not threat from a weak women”. Thus the ignored the power of the women at his own peril. When all his army was killed, he realized that durga is not an ordinary women. He remembered his boon, and realized that his end was near. He said “I recongize you, Oh goddess!!!, but I will fight you anyway, as I wish to attain salavation at your hands”. Goddess Durga gave him boon that he will be worshipped along with the goddess. Thus, you see his idol with every durga idols. He is indeed worshipped along with the divine mother.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Friend!

      Yes! I felt very blessed to be given these Chunri!!
      WHAT AN INTERESTING FACT, the world’s first intercultural marriage, hehe! Shame it had to end so badly. I really really love mythology and thank you so much for sharing an indepth description!!

      Wow, thank you so much for this comment friend!!! I hope you are having an amazing Durga Puja!!

      Lots of love xxx

  • friend

    @lauren

    If you wantto witness the sindoor game do visit the bengali pooja tomorrow in the morning. Might as well apply some on your husband.

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