Sunday, October 21, 2007

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the biggest religious festival for Hindus in Bengal (East Bengal is Bangladesh and West Bengal is in India). Bangladesh is known as a Muslim country but about 10% of it's citizens are Hindu. Multiply that by the 140 or so million people who live here and you have about 14 million Hindus in Bangladesh! Certainly a sizable minority.

Today is the last day of the Durga Puja festival. Durga is the goddess for whom the celebration is made. Puja means festival in Bangla. Clay statues of the goddess Durga are fashioned (similar to the one above, courtesy of Wikipedia) and painted and sunk in rivers and lakes. I apologize that my knowledge of the Durga isn't as good as it should be. Basically, she is the female goddess created by higher male deities from a collective female energy to fight demons. She's blessed with 10 hands to hold her various weapons. Durga Puja is a celebration of her victory over evil.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia, which does a much better job describing her than I do:

The Great Goddess is said to be exquisitely beautiful. Her form is blindingly bright, with three lotus-like eyes, ten powerful hands, lush hair with beautiful curls, a red-golden glow from her skin and a quarter moon on her forehead. She wears a shiny oceanic blue attire emitting fierce rays. Her ornaments were carved beautifully of gold, with ocean pearls and precious stones embedded in it. Her face was sculpted by Shiva, torso by Indra, breasts by Chandra (the moon), teeth by Brahma, bottom by the Earth, thighs and knees by Varuna (water), and her three eyes by Agni (fire). Each god also gave her their own most powerful weapons, Rudra's trident, Vishnu's discus, Indra's thunderbolt, Brahma's kamandal, Kuber's gada, etc. Himalayas gifted her a fierce whitish golden lion.

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