For Hindus, the arrival of autumn is marked by one of the most joyous festivals- Durga Puja. The soul-stirring smell of the shiuli flowers, the spiritual fragrance of incense sticks, the rhythmic beats of the ‘Dhol’, ‘Taal’, ‘Dhaak’, and the upcoming of shorter days and cold evenings indicate that the festive season of autumn has begun.
Durga Puja, which is typically celebrated for ten days starting from ‘Mahalaya’ to ‘Vijaya Dashami’, is the symbolic representation of victory of good over evil, and the establishment of peace and prosperity and celebration of women power. Further, Durga Puja also breaks the monotony of lives, as people thoroughly enjoy the festival by swaying in the musical and the spiritual beats of it.
Over the years, a lot has already been discussed how Durga Puja is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. But the sad fact is that the quintessence of the festival has degraded strikingly over the years. And, there are very few conversations or deliberations on the ways to maintain the essence of the festival.
There’s a stark contrast between Durga Puja celebration of the yesteryears and that of the present era. As children, we were tasked to find out differences between two precisely similar pictures. But that is missing now. We need to realise the fact that it is high time we move back to our roots and uphold the essence of this festival.
The present-day Durga Puja is mostly about the expensive idols of goddess Durga in the lavishly decorated Pandals, that consume a huge amount of energy resources. Crores of money are spent in organising this festival, and it seems that there is a sense of competition among the organisers of Durga Puja to prove their capacity and worth. Added to this, when the festival gets over, these expensive idols are simply immersed in the water, the ‘Pandals’ are broken, and this has a negative impact on the environmental situation of the respective cities.
But, is it really necessary to make this sacred festival an extravagant celebration? Mahapurukh Sreemanta Sankardeva provides the logical answer to this. Sankardeva was of the view that a devotee’s prayer to his or her lord should be an honest affair from the heart rather than some impractical show-off. Sankardeva’s views are also resonated in the religious scriptures of Hindus that assert that sincere prayer is enough to please the god.
So, rather than spending so much money in making the idols every year, permanent goddess Durga idols can be erected at all those places, where Durga Puja is organised or celebrated. Furthermore, the ‘Pandals’ constructed should limit themselves to the spirituality quotient of the festival rather than the over usage of electricity and technology to turn it into an extravaganza. Moreover, because of this reckless spending of money to over decorate the idols and the pandals, the spiritual dynamism of the festival is somewhere lost. Therefore, some changes must be brought in at the earliest, to bring back the spiritual touch of this sacred festival.
In fact, some of the age-old traditions associated with Durga Puja still put a question mark on the ethical aspect of celebrating the sacred festival. In a few of the most famous Durga temples, a heinous tradition of sacrificing animals is still being followed. Many experts, as well as animal enthusiasts, have also expressed their concerns this tradition. Yet nothing has changed.
Furthermore, many people indulge in alcohol and drug abuse during festivals. This makes me wonder that have we reduced the spiritual and the holy festival of Durga Puja into a materialistic celebration? While the essence of the festival has degraded over the years, we can bring back that essence by changing ourselves and thinking more rationally.