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Celebrating the Invincible Goddess, Durga

Celebrating the Invincible Goddess, DurgaDurga Puja celebrates the victory of invincible goddess Durga.  Befitting to her power, Durga Puja is one of the most popular and grandest puja (religious festival) among Hindu Bengalis from the eastern part of India.  Especially the entire Kolkata city (formerly Calcutta) is adorned beautifully during this festival and is one of the most glamorous events of the season.

Who is Goddess Durga?
Durga is a powerful Goddess who was created by the Gods to kill the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.  Goddess Durga has 10 hands.  In each hand, she has a weapon gifted by the Gods.  Goddess Durga is one of the many incarnation of goddess Shakti (meaning power).

What is Durga Puja?
Durga Puja marks the victory of good over evil, and has been celebrated since the medieval period.  In the eastern part of India, Durga Puja is also celebrated to welcome Durga to her parent’s home in eastern India before she returns to her husband, Shiva’s, abode in the Himalayas with her children.

When is Durga Puja?
According to the Hindu calendar, Durga Puja is celebrated from the sixth to tenth day of the bright lunar fortnight in the month of Ashwin.  This period starts from Mahalaya, the day when Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura.  This year Mahalaya is on September 19, 2017.  Durga Puja will be celebrated from September 26th to 30th 2017.

How is Durga Puja celebrated?
The eastern states of Bengal, Tripura, Bihar, Orissa celebrate this puja as the biggest festival of the year.  Organizations erect pandals (temporary abode for Durga idols) and various other sculptures.  Often these pandals and sculptures are decorated with a particular theme and are designed by skilled craftsmen.

The city Kumartoli is known for making Durga idols.  The Durga idols are usually made anew each year and are decorated beautifully with custom jewelry and nice clothes.  Thus the sponsor for each puja ends up spending a huge amount of money just to keep up the competition with their neighboring pujas.

The rituals for Durga Puja are very complicated and are normally performed by a priest at the pandal during the 5-days of celebration.  Dressed up in new clothes, families from all walks of life seek goddess Durga’s blessings by offering prayers and performing pushpanjali (a ritual performed with flowers).  Food plays a major part during this festival, especially Bhog (Prasad or food for goddess Durga) is a must for all her devotees.  Kolkata city celebrates this festival to the fullest.

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Durga Puja in San Francisco Bay Area
The Bay Area also celebrates Durga Puja, there are many puja going with some examples below:

1. Bay Area Durga Utsav @ 5155 Stars and Stripes Dr, Santa Clara, CA 95054 (Oct 7 to Oct 10, 2016)
2. BayArea Prabasi @ SantaClara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Road, San Jose, CA 95111 (Oct 7 to Oct 9, 2016)
3. http://www.pashchimi.org (Oct 7th to Oct 11th, 2016)
4. http://baybasi.org/site/ (Oct 8th and Oct 9th, 2016)
5. http://www.livermoretemple.org/hints/content/html/2016/durga-pooja-celebrations-2016.pdf @ Liver more Hindu temple (Oct 1 to Oct 11, 2016)
6. http://www.fremonttemple.org/upcoming-events.php @ Fremont Hindu temple (Oct 6th to Oct 10th , 2016)
7. SFO vedanta society

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