akāla-bodhana

(‘untimely awakening’)

Utsavas or religious festivals are the heart of popular religion. Among the many festivals of Hinduism, Durgotsava is consi-dered very important and is very popular too, especially in Bengal, Bihar and Assam. It is a festival dedicated to the worship of Durgā, the Śakti or Mother-goddess, and is usually done to 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 the Hindu mythological literature, the gods of the Hindu pantheon go to sleep during the month of Āṣāḍha (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, the goddess Durgā will still be asleep. She has to be woken up for the worship. This ceremonial awakening of the deity is known as ‘akāla-bodhana’ or ‘bodhana’ since the waking up (bodhana) is being done at an odd time (akāla = untimely, odd time).

According to the Bengali tradition of this worship, Rāma is said to have awakened and worshipped 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. This legend appears in the Rāmāyaṇa of Kṛttivāsa (15th century A. D.) in Bengali. Thus the tradition of worshipping Durgā during Āśvina is said to have been started by Rāma himself.

See also DURGOTSAVA.