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Festivals celebrated throughout West Bengal 

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is solemnized as perhaps the most significant of all celebrations in Bengal. This ritual is essentially the worshipping of Goddess Durga in the final moments of her victory over Asura- the Evil. The spirit and celebrations across the state and especially Kolkata around this week-long festivity is truly unparalleled in the country and perhaps the only resemblance can be drawn with the Ganesha Chaturthi of Mumbai. 

The Bengalis celebrate this Puja during the middle of Ashwin – a month in Hindu Calendar. The origin of Durga Puja is assumed to be the worshipping of the Goddess by Rama, termed Akal Bodhan, before his invasion of Lanka in the same month. A week before, Mahalaya or the invocation of the Goddess brings forth the advent of the Puja along with the pleasantries of autumn days in the hearts of all. The elder citizens of the city still recall the sonorous chanting of Mahalaya by Birendra Krishna Bhadra from All India Radio in the early morning. 

People, adorned in new clothes and spirited with the fanfare and festive mood, hit the streets during the Puja days, ranging from Shashthi to Dashami. Kumartuli in Kolkata is a famous age-old habitat of artists and potters shaping the idol-vignettes of the Goddess, her Lion, the Asura and her companion offspings- Karthikeyan, Ganesha, Lakshmi and Saraswati. 

According to Mythology, Goddess Durga is also the daughter of the Himalayas and visits her devotees every year during the Puja. Also, the Goddess is the culmination of the energies of all the Deities in Heaven, and equipped with arms and ammunitions in ten hands she is commissioned to kill the Mahisasura and eventually conquers all evils in the world.

On the last day of the Puja, i.e., Dashami (Dussera), the idol is immersed in water (preferably the Ganges). Just before this, the married womenfolk gather around the deity and smear her and themselves with sindur. 

The Vijaya Dashami also marks the festive celebration with sweets and camaraderie. One notable observation during the Puja is the Kumari Puja in Mahashtami in Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math where a virgin young girl is worshipped as the Goddess. Lakhs of people throng around to observe this unique form of worship.

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