Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Durga. Durga Puja is celebrated during Devi Paksha which is 15 days period of Ashwin lunar month as per Hindu calendar. Devi Paksha begins on the next day of Sarvapitru Amavasya and ends on Kojagori Lokkhi Puja. Devi Paksha literally translates to "Fortnight of the Goddess".
Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the Indian states of West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. In West Bengal, Assam and Tripura, which has the majority of Bengali Hindus and Assamese Hindus, Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the year. In these states, Durga Puja is not only the biggest Hindu festival but also the most significant socio-culture event for Bengali Hindu society.
In West Bengal, Durga Puja refers to all the six days during Devi Paksha observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami. Durga Puja is also known as Durgotsava and Sharadotsava.
In other Indian states, Durga Puja during Devi Paksha is observed as Navratri. Although Navratri is also dedicated to Goddess Durga and overlaps with Durga Puja, rituals and customs followed during Navratri differ significantly than those of Durga Puja. Those Indian states in which Devi Paksha is observed as Navratri, Durga Puja is not used in local lingua-franca and if used in conversation then it usually refers to Goddess Durga worship in West Bengal.
As mentioned in various Hindu religious texts, before the era of Lord Rama, Chaitra Navratri used to be the most significant time to worship Goddess Durga. However, the significance of Chaitra Navratri was lessened and shifted to Durga Puja during the era of Lord Rama.
As per Puranic legends, Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga before going to war with Ravana. It is believed that Lord Rama had performed Chandi Homa and sought the blessing of Goddess Durga before going to war. As it was untimely invocation of Goddess Durga, the worshipping of Goddess Durga during this time of the year is also known as Akal Bodhan i.e. untimely invocation. As Lord Rama was blessed with victory over powerful demon Ravana, this time of the year is considered the most suitable to seek blessings of Goddess Durga and to perform Chandi Homa.
As per Devi Mahatmya, Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura. Hence Durga Puja festival is observed as the victory of good over evil.
Goddess Durga is main deity who is worshipped during Durga Puja. Durga Puja also includes the worship of Lord Shiva as the consort of Goddess Durga, an aspect of Goddess Parvati herself.
It is believed that when Goddess Durga arrives, She is accompanied by her four children, namely Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. In West Bengal, all these four deities are considered the children of Goddess Durga. Hence, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya are also worshipped during Durga Puja.
Durga Puja is the most significant festival in West Bengal. However, the date and time of Durga Puja is decided based on lunar calendar. Hence in Bengali calendar, date of Durga Puja is not fixed.
Although, the next day of Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi Paksha, the ritualistic Durga Puja begins on the sixth day of Devi Paksha. However, the narration of Chandi Patha in West Bengal begins from the day of Mahalaya i.e. a day before Devi Paksha begins.
Durga Puja begins - Sixth (6th day) of Ashwin (seventh lunar month) Shukla Paksha
Durga Puja ends - Tenth (10th day) of Ashwin Shukla Paksha
Durga Puja Calendar lists all significant days during Durgotsava. In West Bengal, Durga Puja begins with Akal Bodhan, the day when Goddess Durga is invited and culminates with Vijayadashami when Goddess Durga is given ceremonial and ritualistic farewell.
Numerous rituals are followed during Durga Puja especially in the Indian state of West Bengal.