West Bengal celebrates Mahanavami

Kolkata, Devotees from all walks of life, dressed in their best attire, headed towards the puja marquees on Thursday as the city celebrated Mahanavami -- the fourth day of Durga Puja.

"I have already visited many pandals (marquees) but will try to cover more before the festivities end," a young girl said with enthusiasm.

Following the almanac, Mahashtami formally came to an end on Wednesday afternoon, and Mahanavami (ninth lunar day) began with Sandhi Puja held at their confluence.

Amidst beats of 'dhak' or drums, some Puja communities like Bagbazar Sarbajanin and Samajsebi sangha offered 'Kumari Puja', the ritual of the worship of a pre-pubescent girl as a goddess on Navami. The little girl is seen in a red sari, adorned with floral ornaments and given 'sindur' (vermillion) mark on her forehead which is usually a part of Mahashtami.

She sits before goddess Durga's idol on a decorated chair as priests chant hymns. The Maha Arati on Navami is a special attraction. In many of the traditional households celebrating the festival, 'yagna' (rituals done before the sacred fire) is organised before the morning puja rituals come to an end.

Thousands of devotees bond over sumptuous community feasts at marquees. The delicious 'bhog' (community feast of food items offered to the Goddess first) platter includes a varied spread from 'luchis' (deep fried puffed bread) to 'khichuri', vegetable items, to fish and even mutton.

Santoshpur Trikone Park marquee, Ekdalia Evergreen, Maddox Square are some of the Pujas that drew mammoth crowds. This year the two puja committees- Sribhumi Sporting Club and the Md Ali Park recreated Chittorgarh fort as seen in the period film 'Padmaavat', were the major crowd puller. On the other hand, long queues could be seen outside the cinema halls and multiplexes as some chose to watch the latest films of their favourite actors.

As per Hindu mythology, goddess Durga killed Chando and Mundo -- two 'asuras' or demons at the confluence (sandhi) of the two days. The goddess is worshipped as the undefeated divine force with lotuses and offered her favourite food items. The five-day festival is considered the biggest event in this part of the world when even newspapers don't hit the streets and roads are choked with devotees and revellers throughout the day and night.

According to Hindu mythology, goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children -- Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati -- descends on earth every year to visit her parents to fight evil. This is the occasion that the puja celebrates.

Durga, the slayer of demon Mahishasur, comes astride her mount lion and wields an array of weapons in her 10 hands in symbolic representation of Shakti, or woman power.     - IANS