By Swami Harshananda
Durgotsava (or Durga puja) is is popular utsava in Bengal, Bihar and Assam dedicated to the worship of goddess Durgā, the Śakti or Mother-goddess. This worship is usually practiced on a consecrated clay image. After the festival is over, the image is taken out in a procession and is immersed in the waters of the sea, a river, a lake or even a big tank.
According to shastra, the Gods go to sleep during the month of Asādha (June-July) and wake up during the month of Kārttīka (October-November). Since the Durgotsava is celebrated during the month of Āśvina or Āśvayuja (September-October), from the 6th to the 10th days of the bright half moon, the goddess Durgā will be asleep. She has to be woken up for the worship and this ceremonial awakening is known as ‘bodhana’. Since the waking up (bodhana) is being done at an odd time it is called as akāla bodhana.
According to the Bengali tradition of this worship, Rāma is said to have awakened and worshiped Durgā before the final encounter with Rāvaṇa, the demon king of Laṅkā, on the 9th day of Āśvina bright half and achieved victory by her grace on the 10th, now known as ‘Vijayadaśamī.’ He had to do this since his need was very urgent. Thus the tradition of worshiping Durgā during Āśvina is said to have been started by Rāma himself.
- Rāmāyana of Kṛttivāsa (15th century A. D.) in Bengali
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore