In India, this is the festival week. People are euphoric about the Durga Puja festival, in which, according to Hindu philosophy, goddesses Durga, the God’s incarnation of Feminine energy, is worshipped. Across towns and cities massive temple structures are created by local artisans using cloth, bamboo sticks and decorated with flowers(it is called pandal). The image of the Goddesses is installed at the altars, where she is depicted killing the demon Mahisasura. She comes on a lion and has ten hands with different weapons in each hand. All these have symbolic and philosophical interpretations.
During this festival people perform austerities and fasting as a part of the prayer. During evenings grand prayers are offered and everyone visits the temple. A spectacular aarti is performed amidst the drum beats which shakes up the soul, as it is a majestic sight. A priest will wave an earthen pot with incense and holy leaves burning inside it and perform a kind of devotional dance while waving the pot with smoke rising from it in front of the deity. The sound of drums and shehnaai will add rhythm to the priest’s movements. The act displays an act of surrender towards the Goddesses and an expression of thankfulness and gratitude for her mercy.
The ancient texts tell the background of this festival. The demon Mahisasura performs austerity and penance to earn benefaction from the Creator of the Universe, Lord Brahma. After several thousand years of prayer, he pleases Lord Brahma, and demands that he be bestowed with the boon of immortality. Lord Brahma says that he cannot grant him that wish as he himself is a mortal. Lord Brahma is a demigod and the ancient texts tell that the demigods, who are subservient of the one supreme immortal God, have limited life spans. Although this limited lifespan is described as being millions and billions of years in duration. So Lord Brahma denies that boon. Flabbergasted, Mahisasura thinks and then demands that he get a boon that no one be able to kill him – nor man, nor an animal nor a demon or a demigod. This boon is granted to him that neither man nor animal, nor demigod nor demon be able to kill him. Soon after getting this boon he becomes proud of his powers. His ego bloats up and he kills anyone whom he sees performing austerities. It depicts how power corrupts an individual. He wants to be acclaimed as the most powerful creature and destroy anyone whom he considers a threat for himself. The saintly people become afraid of him and they approach many demigods for help. But because of the boon given to him, no one can do him any harm.
The ancient texts say that when saintly people are harmed and virtue starts diminishing in the universe, because of entities misusing their free will, there is a divine intervention for the protection of the saintly. So the texts tell us that the Divine appeared in the feminine manifestation as Goddesses Durga. While Mahisasura had the boon that he cannot be killed by man, animal, demon or demigod, Goddesses Durga was a feminine power, and so she could destroy the demon.When he was asking for boon he never envisaged about the possibility of being killed by a feminine power. In the war that ensues, Mahisasura is killed and the saintly people start worshipping the goddesses for her mercy. It was a victory of good over evil.
This festival recounts this essence. During this festival, the feminine energy of the Divine is worshipped; the motherly, protective and powerful energy. Because the incarnation of Godesses Durga was out of anger against the demon Mahisasura, this form of divine feminine energy is associated with fierceness and anger, but only the demons fear it. The virtuous see it as her compassion and protectiveness.