Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy Durga Puja!

Durga Puja is quite the celebration!
To explain Durga Puja as best I can, I will start by saying that Guwahati at 8:30 p.m. is usually empty. Everyone is usually at home, enjoying family, and preparing dinner. During Durga Puja, the streets are packed with stand-still traffic at midnight. Last night, I thought I was in a completely different world for a second. I mean, stand-still traffic in the roads at midnight in Guwahati? Wait, what?
Traffic at midnight. 
You see families with wide awake 4-year-old kids sitting on motorcycles in traditional Assamese clothing enjoying Puja late into the night. You see people cooking food everywhere along the sides of the streets. You see a vast ocean of women dressed in beautiful, brightly colored clothing (during Durga Puja, you are supposed to wear new clothes), and everyone shouting and yelling and making noise.The most amazing thing about the festival is just the sheer numbers of people, even in a place that seems totally packed anyway. People have come to Guwahati from throughout the region and neighboring countryside to celebrate. I have been totally amazed.
So, what do I mean by enjoying Puja? What do I mean by seeing Puja? Statues like these are located all around Guwahati under tents. The statues depict the story of Durga, who is the Hindu God that is celebrated this week. You know a Durga Puja scene is coming up on you when you see colorful lights You also know a Durga Puja scene is coming up when the traffic comes to a complete stand still. There are competitions all around Guwahati for "the best Puja."
The lights showing that their is a Puja tent coming!
Welcome to Paris... in Guwahati.
Lights, lights, lights
What everyone is celebrating, all over northern India, is Durga's slaying of the wicked Mahishausura, who was considered a buffalo demon. Essentially, it is a story of good over evil. No kidding, there are some religious ceremonies here in Guwahati where a live buffalo is sacrificed in front of everyone. Sometimes they don't use buffaloes. Sometimes they use goats, or pigeons. 
Anyway to get as close to the artwork as possible, you follow the mass crowd and wait to be given flowers and have a red dot placed on your forehead. Then, you throw the flowers to Durga. Before you know it, the mass crowd has swept you away.
Durga Puja

Puja statue with gifts to the Gods in front.

The Puja next to my house.
Some areas are major puja areas, with loads of booths set up selling toys and food. There are even Ferris wheels (yes, I did ride one) and merry go rounds, DJs and singers with people dancing and drummers playing the Durga Puja drums.
The final day of Puja, which is today (Wednesday, Oct 24), marks the day that all of the statues are thrown into the Brahmaputra River. Everyone loads the statues onto trucks, turns up the music and dances their way to the river. In a sense, it is like Mardi Gras. All of these people are on trucks with the statues (like floats), throwing rice at you (like beads), and dancing away to the beat of the drums. They believe that the longer they celebrate and dance into the night, the more they are praising the gods. Thousands of people gather around the river to watch the beautiful and ornate statues get thrown into the river. 
Parading down to the river! 

Off to the river it goes! 

The statue is about to be unloaded and carried to the water.

As we were walking to the river, I saw a shop that had 10 Puja statues against the wall. My friend told me those statues are for next year, meaning the artists have already started working on Durga Puja 2013. Wow! Can you believe all of their hard work gets thrown into the river and sinks to the bottom? However, they believe that the water symbolizes the departure of Durga to her home.  
Everyone is so faithful and energetic about their religion and this holiday. I have been swept up in this energy, fully immersing myself in everything the Hindus do during the week. Most truly believe in having a good time while praising Durga. Off to celebrate some more!
Sending smiles and “Happy Durga Pujas” from India,

P.S. Below, are some photos from the week...

My friend's sister doing my henna in preparation for Puja!

She is absolutely incredible at henna. This would usually cost $60.

I love henna!!

First night of Durga Puja! 
Rafi and Pinki 
Me, Pinki, Manika, Rihna, Maromi

Manika, me, Pinki, Anuwara (Second night of Durga Puja)!

A yummy Puja meal! 

The morning after the second night of Puja

The morning after the second night of Puja

No comments:

Post a Comment