Durga Puja: Creating a Goddess

The Goddess Durga ready for the Puja
The Goddess Durga ready for the Puja

For three weeks in the spring of 2009, two artists from India created beautiful images of the Goddess Durga and her family at St Fagans National History Museum. Week by week, simple materials like clay, papier mache, hay and wood were skilfully transformed into finely detailed sculptures – all with their own symbols and meanings. They were made for the Wales Puja Committee – a Hindu group that has worshipped in Wales since the 1970s. Their existing image of the Goddess Durga was old and worn – so they needed a new one.

Durga is the invincible Mother Goddess, riding a lion into battle. Created by the Gods when evil threatened the Universe, she is ‘Shakti’ the divine power to stand against, absorb and fight dark forces. Throughout worship, known as Puja, Hindu people celebrate the defeat of evil by Durga.

She is portrayed in all her beauty displaying strength, warmth and motherly love. She stands proud on a lion slaying the demon King, Mahisasura. With her are her two sons, Ganesh and Kartikeya and her two daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati.

The two award winning artists - Purnendu and Dubyendu Dey – were from Kolkata, India. Throughout the process of creation certain religious rites were followed. The most important of these is known as Chakkshu Daan - the Painting of the Eyes. Purnendu carefully brought Durga to life by painting her eyes. From this point on the image of the Goddess is worshipped as though she has all the powers given to her by the Gods.

The Pujas begin on the sixth day of Navaratri, the nine nights of rites to the Goddess Durga, with the welcoming of the Goddess and her family. Mantras are chanted in Sanskrit and offerings made to seek the Goddess’ blessings to fight evil.

After nine days the final day known as Dushera arrives, this is the day to say goodbye to the Mother Goddess and her family. In India, they are placed into the waters of the river Ganges, with hopes of welcoming her back next year. In Wales, they are stored carefully ready for next year.