It’s time again to get lost in the devotional zeal of Durga Puja celebration, the most awaited festival of Bengalis.
As per Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, who is also referred to as an embodiment of Shakti, or a symbol of feminine strength, emerged as a collective energy to fight the devil Mahishasura, who could not to be defeated by any God or Man.
The festival represents the victory of goddess Durga over the Buffalo demon. Hence Durga is also known as Mahishasura Mardini. But there is one more story worth telling about Durga Puja.
Legend has it, before Mahishasura’s annihilation, his two generals, Chondo and Munda, were slayed by Devi Durga, transformed as Devi Chamunda in the transition period of Ashtami and Navami, known as Sondhikhan.
When a pitched battle was going on between Goddess Durga and Mahishashura, Chondo and Munda attacked the Goddess from behind. The Goddess was so enraged by this breach of battle rules that her face turned blue.
She opened her third eye and Chamunda avatar (taken from Chondo and Munda) sprang out. This avatar was a blood curdling form of Goddess Kali. Sandhi Puja is celebrated to worship the Chamunda form of Goddess Durga.
A special prayer is offered to the deity during symbolic time of dusk in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and first 24 minutes of Navami. This 48 minute period of Sondhi is considered the most pious and powerful period of the festival.
It is considered as the highest form of the worship. During this ritual 108 lamps are lit and 108 lotus flowers are offered. Many rituals and traditions are associated with Sondhi Khan (literally meaning minute).
In ancient times, it was a ritual to sacrifice animals in order to complete the Puja but now, only a symbolic sacrifice is performed with vegetables like banana, cucumber or pumpkin.
Zamindars and rajas declared the time for Sandhi puja by firing cannonballs or starting a loud drum beat of dhak (traditional drum). Even today, the moment that Sandhi Puja starts is awaited with bated breath because this is the most important part of Durga Puja.