Durgāpūjā, worship of the Divine Mother Durgā, celebrated for nine days or for three days, during the month of Āśvayuja or Āśvina (September/October), is a major festival of the Hindus.
According to Hindu mythology, the various gods and goddesses go to sleep for a period of four months (from Āṣāḍha to Kārttīka, July to October). Since the Durgāpūjā is celebrated in the month of Āśvina when Durgā is still asleep, she has to be woken up first. This ceremonial waking up of the deity is called ‘bodhana.’ It is done on the evening of Āśvina śukla ṣaṣṭhī, (sixth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Āśvina). A ghaṭa or kalaśa (a pot with water containing sandalwood paste, dūrvā grass, leaves of five trees like mango, clay from seven places, fruit etc.) is established under a bilva tree (Aegle marmelos), the mantras of bodhana or awakening are uttered, and the bilva tree itself is worshipped as the Mother Durgā.
The story goes that when Durgā (Pārvatī, the spouse of Śiva) came to her mother’s house from her husband’s home, it was late in the evening. So, she decided not to disturb her parents and spent the whole night under a bilva tree near the house. The ritual described above, is symbolic of this.
Bodhana is also one of the ten aspects of a ritual aimed at making a mantra (divine formula) potent. See MANTRA-SAṀSKĀRA for details.