Have been thinking over writing about it since Durga Pooja itself. But it kept getting postponed. I have picked up the story behind Durga Pooja this time. It’s not an elaborate one. Just some bits and pieces I could pick up.
Chapter – IV
Goddess Durga has been called upon by Gods to kill the asuras (devils), whom they could not individually overpower. There are nine roops (forms) she has taken to kill nine of them. On the nine days of Durga Puja, these nine forms are worshipped.
One of the most famous ones amongst the asuras killed by Her was Mahisashura. He had gained enormous power by worshipping Lord Brahma. The Vardan (blessing) that he got from Lord Brahma was that no man or God could kill him. He first conquered the Manavaloka (the world of the humans – the earth). After that he started fighting and defeating the Gods left and right. Ultimately he captured Lord Indra’s (king of the Gods) throne and started ruling the Devaloka (the world of the Gods). This was too much for God’s to let continue, of course. Along with Lord Brahma, other Gods went to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva and requested them to save the universe from Mahishasura. When Lords Vishnu and Brahma heard the whole story, they got very, very angry. It was out of their anger that a shakti-punja (a ball of light, which denotes power) came out. Then all the Gods gave their powers and weapons to this shakti-punja. Soem Gods also gave the shringara (make-up, toilettries) to this punja. That’s how Goddess Durga came into being. She was unmatched in the world in the power as well as in the beauty. So, great was her power that all the three lokas (worlds) started shaking. All the devils came to see her after hearing about her beauty, but lost their lives to her power. Finally even Mahishasura came out. The fight with Mahishasura lasted for 10 days and finally he was killed. It is to celebrate this that Durga Puja is celebrated for 10 days in the shukla paksha (15 days after no-moon to full-moon) of the month of Aashwin according to Hindu calendars.
Some other asuras who were killed by Goddess Durga were Raktsbeeja, Shumbha-Nishumbha, Chanda-Munda etc.
Durga Pooja is also associated with the fight of Lord Rama and Ravana in Ramayana. It is said that for these ten days the fight went on between the two armies and finally on the 10th day, Ravana was killed by Lord Rama. It is to celebrate this that Rama-leela (play depicting Lord Rama’s life) are perfromed through out the country during Durga Pooja. Also, on the last day, Vijayadahsami (Dashami = 10th day of the month, Vijaya = Victory. It is the 10th day of the month of Aashwin when the victory was achieved by Lord Rama/Goddess Durga), Ravan-Dahan (burning the portrait of Ravana) is carried out.
Whether the two are connected in some way is not very clear. One of the possible conncetions that my dad surmised was that because these 10 days were associated with the victory of right over wrong (due to the destruction of Mahishasura), people used to choose these days for battles. And so did Lord Rama when he set out to have battle with Ravana after worshipping the Shakti (symbol of Power). But this is not very authentic.
Yet, another story associated with Durga Pooja is that in these 10 days Goddess Uma (another name for Parvati – wife of Lord Shiva) went to visit her parents, King Him (of Himalayas) and Queen Maina. On 10th day she went back to Kailash (where Lord Shiva lives). My hunch, however, is that this is more a folklore than having a root in any of religious/mythological books.