THE Navarathiri festival holds a special significance in the Bengalee community’s history.
Known as Durga Puja or Durgotsavaor Sharadotsav among Bengalis, it is one of the most popular annual Hindu festivals and the biggest celebration for the community.
While the festival is traditionally celebrated over nine nights, the Bengali Hindu community observes the festival differently, in that it is recognised for only five days.
The festival is celebrated on the fifth to the ninth day of Navarathiri, which falls in October.
Navarathiri is a nine-day festival celebrated by Hindus.
Malaysian Bengalee Association (MBA) past president Dr SR Sen Gupta said the prominence of Durga Puja gradually increased during the British Raj in Bengal.
“In mythology, Durga Puja marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil mythical buffalo demon Mahishasura, epitomising the victory of good over evil.
“While the festival has been celebrated in Bengal as far back as the middle ages, it did not become popular until the 17th and 18th centuries.
“The Hindu reformists identified Durga with India and she became an icon for the Indian independence movement.
“Because of this, the tradition of Baroyari or community Puka was popularised andDurga Puja became one of the largest celebrated festivals,” he explained.
Dr Gupta added that during this period, prayers are held at significant times of the day and devotional songs are sung by devotees who are strictly vegetarian.
MBA president Nomita Choudhury said for Bengalis, Durga Puja is not only an important festival of religious significance but it also brings the community together.
“It is celebrated every year by Bengalis of all ages and the communal spirit is very evident here,” she said.
In true Bengali fashion, the five-day festival was recently celebrated at the Bangunan Peladang, along Jalan Templer in Petaling Jaya.
A variety of dance and singing performances were held to mark the occasion before the 300 guests were treated to a sumptuous vegetarian dinner.