Why Navaratri and Durga Puja Delayed in 2020!


The 11-day Ganesh Festival, celebrated all over Maharashtra and other parts of the country, ushers in the festive season in India, it normally falls during August-September every year as per the calculations of the lunisolar Hindu Calendar. After the immersion on the 14th day of the bright phase or the waxing moon phase or Shukla Paksha of the lunar month, full moon or Purnima occurs the next day, and the following fortnight of the darkening phase or the waning phase or Krishna Paksha is observed as Pitru Paksha when people pay homage to their ancestors and perform the main shradh or funeral rituals on the culminating day of the new moon or Amavasya, that is Mahalaya. Next day, the brightening phase of the moon starts again which is called Devi Paksha and during this divine fortnight of the Goddess awakening, Navaratri and Durga Puja are celebrated. Hymns of Goddess Durga resonate the air on the auspicious day of Mahalaya, and people of India, energized by the sweet tinge of the Autumn season, immerse themselves in worshiping their favorite Goddesses along with the festivities that effectively break all religious and other barriers. However, this year 2020, after Mahalaya on the 17th of September, Navaratri is not going to start from the next day and Durga Puja not going to start six days later. You’ll have to wait exactly a month for Navaratri and 35 days for Durga Puja. Most of us already know this when both almanacs of the Hindu calendar agreed on this and announced the delay during Durga Puja celebrations last year, that is 2019.

The basic reason for this delay is the fact that the month of Ashwin that starts on September 17 happens to be mala maas or unholy month as two new moons (Amavasya) occur during the 30 days, the first Amavasya is the Mahalaya day on 17 September and the second one on 16th October. As per the holy scriptures, a month is considered unholy if two new moons occur and all auspicious rituals except for funeral rites are avoided. This phenomenon repeats itself approximately every 32.5 months as a result of the intricate additions/omissions process of leap days and leap months in the Hindu calendar, and a mala maas can be applicable to any of the 12 months. On earlier occasions, Ashwin had been the unholy month in 1982 and in 2001. Therefore in 2020, the nine-day Navaratri festivities are going to start from October 17 and the Mahashasthi, the start of the five-day Durga Puja, would  be on the 22nd October; both festivals falling in the month of Kartik. Vijay Dashami or Dussehra is to be observed on October 26. The rest of the Indian festival calendar will not be affected.

The Indian festive season began this year on a subdued and sober note due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The government of Maharashtra had appealed to all the devotees to avoid the usual festivities and the idols were set to not exceed four feet in height. The most visited and the famous Lalbaughchya Raja celebrations in Mumbai were cancelled well in advance with the organizers announcing medical camps instead during the days. Excellent arrangements were made on the immersion day with the state government providing artificial ponds and water tankers at every nook and corner of Mumbai and the state, most of the idols being eco-friendly. Indeed, idol makers bore the brunt of the scaled-down festivities.

The scale of festivities during the upcoming Navaratri and Durga Puja festivals is also caught in the agony of uncertainty with the pandemic surge refusing to cooperate. This is also yet to be seen if the mala maas delay would eventually help the organizers and the public participate in the festivities more freely and wholeheartedly. The idol makers continue to suffer though, with the usual flurry of activities and orders totally missing so far.

Goddess Durga is believed to be a demon-killer and a destroyer of all evil forces on earth. The mother-shakti forms of the Goddess descend on earth every year with this very objective and the mortals on earth intone and evoke the Devi’s wrath on the wrong-doers. People of India in 2020, caught up in the throes of one of the worst years in history, would hope fervently that the Goddess shower mercy on them and deliver them of the misery, sufferings and deaths. However, the people must also observe the sacred duties on their part as the challenging times demand. The wait goes on…

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