Durga puja begins in West Bengal

West Bengal was a picture of merriment and religiosity Tuesday due to Durga puja - the biggest festival in the state.

Kolkata: West Bengal was a picture of merriment and religiosity Tuesday due to Durga puja - the biggest festival in the state.

The generally five-day carnival, shortened to a four-day affair according to the almanac, is being celebrated across the state with everyone joining in with religious fervour.

Thousands of men, women and children, turned up in their best on the streets of the metropolis visiting marquees as the festivities started on Shashthi - the sixth day of the lunar calendar.

In Kolkata, about 2,470 community pujas are being held. Each year, organisers come up with new themes and try to better their previous attempts.

Festooned with lights, giant cardboard cut-outs and clay figures adorn the entrances to lanes. The city is decked up like a bride to welcome the goddess.

The festival, starting on Shashthi, translates into frenzied pandal-hopping in new clothes, meeting friends and family.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished people on Shashthi through a Facebook post.

Shashthi also marks the beginning of the puja rituals.

Kalparamvo (the beginning of the puja), Bodhan (the consecration of Durga's idol), Amantran (inviting the goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the goddess in the place where the puja is being held) - were performed in the marquees and households where the deity is being worshipped.

According to the Ramayana, before attacking Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, Lord Rama had performed Durga puja in autumn - a time when the gods sleep, according to the Hindu religious texts.

So Lord Rama had to first wake up the goddess prematurely, and as such the awakening in the autumnal festival is called "Akal (untimely) Bodhan" of the goddess.

However, mythology also states that the puja celebrates the annual descent of goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children - Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati - to earth.

The goddess, astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her ten hands, stays for four days to eradicate all evil from Earth before returning to her husband Lord Shiva at Kailash on Dashmi.

The festival will conclude Friday, when the idols would be immersed by teary-eyed devotees in rivers, lakes and ponds.

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