October 21 is Kalprarambh, the first day of Durga Puja in West Bengal as the state celebrates the shorter version of Navratri which lasts for three days. The rituals of this day are similar to the Kalashsthapana done on the first day of Sharad Navratri, which was on October 17.
How Kalprarambha celebrated?
On this day, the devotees invite Goddess Durga to reside in a Bilva Tree or a holy pot (Kalash). The act of inviting the Goddess is called Amantran and when her spirit resides in the tree or pot, it is known as Adhivas. This is mainly performed during the Sanyakal which is 2 hours and 24 minutes before sunset.
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Kalparambha is also known as Akal Bodhan. Know why
According to Hindu Mythology, Sharad Navratri and Durga Puja happen during the of Dakshinayan Kaal that appears in the mid-year. At this time of the year, it is believed that all the deities are asleep. Now, in order to worship Goddess Durga, it becomes imperative to ritualistically wake her up. And for that Akal Bodhan Puja is performed. A pot filled with water is placed under the Bilva tree and prayers are offered to wake her up. Only after this ritual, the Amantran and Adhivas rituals commence.
Also Read: October 17 Is Sharad Navratri, The Onset Of Widely Celebrated Durga Puja
The Story Behind The Akal Bodhan
It is believed that traditionally, Goddess Durga was worshipped during Chaitra Navratri of the Hindu Calendar which falls in March and April. But for the first time, Lord Rama performed Akal Bodhan, woke Goddess Durga up during an unusual time of Sharad Navratri and sought blessings to fight off Ravana and save Sita. Since then, Goddess Durga is being worshipped in Sharad Navratri also and over time, this Navratri has become more significant. This could also be because it was at this time that Lord Rama defeated Ravana. So on Dussehra, which the 10th day of Durga Puja, the life-size idols of Ravana, Meghanad and Kumbhakaran are burnt as a symbolic win of good over evil.
Watching it from the feminist lens
Durga Puja in itself is a symbol of women empowerment. Added to it the angle of Lord Rama worshipping Goddess Durga reminds us of the fact that it is okay if women have more power, education or maturity than men. That it is okay for women to seek help from women, learn something from them without considering it as an insult of their masculinity. But the question that we need to ask is does any of the beliefs of this empowering festival apply to the reality? Do we respect women in daily lives as much as we venerate Goddess Durga? Do we allow a woman to take lead in house, office or any big decisions of life? Does the strong belief of defeating the wrong done in the society manifest in the real-life when women have to struggle each day to keep themselves safe? Seems like no.
Also Read: How Durga Puja Definitions Have Changed Considerably