A lesser known fact for the people living outside West Bengal is that Durga Puja, the biggest festival of Bengal, is actually celebrated twice a year. Durga Puja, which began in the ancient times, is now known as Basanti Puja. It is believed that Basanti Puja (Bosonto kalin durgotsob) is the actual Durga Puja.
The Durga Puja, which is more famous is the Akal Bodhan. It takes place during the autumn season. Akal Bodhan was initiated by Lord Rama much later.
Since, the Basanti Puja takes place during the spring season (known as Bosonto kaal in Bengali), it is known as Basanti Puja. It is also famous by the name Chaitra Durga Puja, as the puja takes place during the Bengali month of Chaitra.
Eventually, the Akal Bodhan became a more widespread festival than Basanti Puja, although the Mother Goddess, Durga, is worshipped in both the festivals. The name Akal Bodhan was substituted by Durga Puja and the other one became popular as Basanti Puja. Where Durga Puja is celebrated in every nook and corner of West Bengal, and even outside Bengal and abroad too, Basanti Puja stays confined to some traditional puja committees and the traditional households. Basanti Puja is more of a barir pujo than the sarvajanik pujo.
The mention of Basanti Puja can be found in the Hindu Scriptures. It is believed that King Suratha, the ruler of the Vanga Kingdom (modern day Bengal), was the first one to worship Maa Durga. The puja took place in the month of Chaitra. Thereafter, the Basanti Puja began. Every year the puja took place in the month of Chaitra until Lord Rama broke the tradition.
The Markandeya Purana says that King Suratha was a devotee of Devi Durga. He preached the Devi Mahatmya (Sri Sri Chandi) to the dharti niwasi (earth dwellers).
King Suratha lost his kingdom. To re-explore his fate, he left his capital, Bolipur (present day Bolpur). He met a businessman, Vaishya Samadhi, who had a similar situation like Suratha. They met Sumedhas Muni, who advised them to worship Devi Durga, after listening of their misfortunes. Only the blessings of the Devi could help them regain their fortune. In the ashram of Sumedhas Muni, situated in the Garh Jungle of West Bengal, King Suratha and Vaishya Samadhi made a clay image and worshipped Maa Durga. That is marked as the world’s first Durga Puja.
After the puja, Vaishya regained his fortune; Suratha got his kingdom back. He could retrieve all his lost property and returned gleefully to his capital, Bolipur. From then, he started worshipping the deity every year, during the spring, in Bolipur.