Durga Puja is celebrated during the Sharada Navratra in October-November. The final five days of the nine-day long Navratra are celebrated as Durga Puja.
The mythology behind the festival is that Maa Durga comes down from Mount Kailash, the abode of her better half, her husband Shiva, to her father’s house or what Indians refer to as the ‘maika’ (basically natal home). She brings with herself, her four children – Saraswati, Lashkmi, Ganesha and Kartikeya. She rides atop a magnificent lion.
It is believed that originally, Durga Puja was held during the Chaitra Navratra. But it was because of ‘Akaal Bodhon’ (untimely evoking) during the Sharada season that these Pujas then started being celebrated at this time. This Akaal Bodhon happened because when Sri Rama was going to fight Ravana, he prayed to the Mother Goddess Durga to bless him. This fight was during the Sharada season. After his victory over Ravana, the victorious homecoming is celebrated on Deepavali, the festival of lights.
It is believed that Maa Durga comes to her natal home here and she is hence showered with affection. On Dashami (Dussehra) married women take her blessings and apply vermillion on her forehead and mourn her leaving as they would mourn the departure of a daughter. And an oft heard phrase is “Ashte bauchhor abar esho” (Come again the next year).
I find this story so fascinating. It makes the festival seem so much more real somehow.
Happy Durga Puja! :)