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Durga Puja in Moscow. Religion in Red City.


Moscow celebrates Durga Puja for 20th time

Agencies Tags : Durga Puja Posted: Saturday , Sep 26, 2009 at 1708 hrs Moscow:

The Russian capital city Moscow is celebrating Durga Puja for the 20th time in a row this year as more and more Russians are joining the Indian community in the festivities.

It was still the Soviet Union, with curbs on public celebration of religious festivities, when in 1989 enthusiasts came together to make the Puja dream in Moscow a reality.

To bypass the Soviet rules, the first Durga puja was organised in a local House of Culture as an Indian cultural event and two priests were specially flown in from Calcutta.

Over the past 20 years after changing several venues for almost last decade, Durga Puja is annually held in the Inter-Club of the Peoples’ Friendship University, where most of the students from India and Bangladesh study.

“Our first Puja was inaugurated by Swami Lokeswarananda of Ramakrishna Mission. Since then Swami Jyotirupananda who is the founder of Moscow Ramakrishna Math has been conducting our puja and is the president of our Moscow Durga Puja Committee,” Debasmita Moulick of Moscow Durga Puja Committee said.

Down the Memory Lane……. 17th Durga Puja at Moscow in 2006.


17th Durga Puja in Moscow

  Durga puja celebration in Moscow from a humble beginning 16 years back has evolved into a tradition. Though the autumn brings chill in the air, we Indians looks for the warmth that Durga Puja promises to bring along.

 This year Durga Puja falls from 29th September to 2nd of October. The puja will be held at the Interclub in the Russian Peoples Friendship University campus (21, Mikhluka Maklaya Street, Moscow).

 Swami Jyotirupananda of the Ramkrishna Mission in Moscow is the president of Durgapuja committee and he supervises the religious ceremonies. Kendriya Vidyalaya, Moscow and JNCC Moscow actively participate in the cultural programs and Mrs. Ambassador has traditionally been the Patron of Durga Puja celebrations.

                                                          Cultural Events

29th September, 20067:00 pm onwards
30th September, 20067:00 pm onwards


1st October, 20067:00 pm onwards

 The significance of the image

Every year in autumn Hindus worship the Divine Mother Durga in a beautifully decorated image made of different materials like earth, straw, cloths etc. framed in a structure of bamboo and wood. At times images are made of light materials of special water plants or the like. The ten handed Durga in the form of a warrior woman fighting with a demon called Mahisasura and standing on her pet lion is seen mostly in the eastern part of India while in the western part of India she is seen even with eight hands on a tiger. These animals are symbols of strength. To get the complete picture of the worship we see the goddess Lakshmi standing on her right side and goddess Saraswati on the left. Below seated on the right Ganesha with elephant head, the god of success; and Kartikeya, the chief commander of divine army on the left. The primordial energy continuously creating, sustaining and destroying the universe is called Shakti. Mother Durga represents that universal energy and every thing in the universe is her manifestation only. She is the only Reality (God in the form of Mother). In the scripture we find she told to the demon Shumbha, “I am the only one in the universe, who else is there the second one apart from me?” Being the universal energy she is formless and infinite. But she has the power to

take that form which her earnest devotee prays for according to his desire. Sages of India, in their super conscious state saw her divine form and described her various forms. These sages were philosophers also. So they wanted her such forms, which symbolically signified her mighty energy. She in the form of energy is everywhere in all the ten directions. So she is ten handed with different arms in hands representing all types of energy. Some times we see some deity with four hands or eight hands, all these signified all directions, everywhere is their presence. Mother Durga is to destroy evil for her children and protect the good. This is shown by the battle with the demon. She fulfils all kinds of wishes of her devotees. But the devotees who are particular about wealth and beauty, for them she took the form of her daughter Lakshmi with an owl as her carrier. If you want to protect your wealth you must have a night watchman. The owl represents this. Another daughter Saraswati, bestows learning. Veena in her hand represents all kinds of arts. Her carrier is the swan signifying that for acquiring knowledge you are to take the essence out of the inessentials. A swan is said in mythology that it can take milk separating water from it. Mother Durga also takes the form of her son Ganesha, the god of success and affluence. He represents as the god of masses. If you need to feed the masses, a great quantity of food is needed. So lord Ganesha has a big belly. Elephant head signifies that a big body and power is there but it needs calmness of an elephant to attain success in business or any other undertaking. His carrier is the mouse, which stores up food in a hole collecting diligently corns from the fields. Kartikeya, the son of the Mother Durga is seated on a beautiful peacock He is the general of the divine army representing strength and swiftness and a giver of progeny. Hindus worship the Divine Mother Durga devotedly for if she is pleased she can bestow ail these desirables and finally leads one to liberation from the bondage of the world.


(on the photo: the first year student who learn Hindi at Russian state university for the humanities  came to celebrate Durga Puja)

 A brief account of the story of Devi Durga according to Indian mythology

Mahishasura, the king of Demons, was once granted a boon by Lord Shiva. Unfortunately the new found power went to his head and he started tyrannizing heaven and its inhabitants. The gods, scared and powerless to counter this tyranny, requested Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to annihilate Mahishashura. In answer to this prayer the three great gods combined their divine powers in the shape of a woman – the goddess Durga. This powerful goddess married Lord Shiva and started preparing herself for her battle with Mahishashura. The gods helped her by arming her with different weapons, one for each of her ten arms.

Durga, Durgotinashini, goddess of deliverance, emerged victorious in her battle with Mahishashura, finally killing him. Peace was restored in heaven and the gods happy. Scriptures detail the mode of her journey. This year the Goddess makes her journey to earth on the horse (Ghotak) and her departure on a swing (Dola). Worshipping Devi Durga is a time-worn tradition. The Puranas reveal that king Suratha, used to worship the goddess Durga in spring – the puja becoming known as Basanti Puja. This tradition has changed since the time Shri Rama hastily worshipped her just before rescuing Sita from Ravana. The time was autumn and the month Ashwin, not in keeping with earlier tradition at all. So it was called ’Akal Bodhan’ (Untimely Worship). Over the years, this Akal Bodhan has become the tradition and in Bengal, Durga Puja continues to be celebrated in the month of Ashwin. In Bengal, goddess Durga is worshipped as a mother rather than the goddess of supreme power.

 Maha-Shashti: The sixth day of the moon when Goddess Durga is welcomed with fanfare and gusto. ’Bodhon’ rituals are ferformed when the face of Ma Durga is unveiled.

Maha-Saptami: The first day of Durga puja; commencement of rituals; predawn bathing of ’Kola Bow’.

Maha-Ashtami: The most important day of Durga Puja; celebrating Ma Durga’s victory over Mahishasur; devotees recite the mantras and offer flowers to Devi Durga (pushpanjali) and pray for her blessings; rituals of animal sacrifices; animals are now substituted with ’chalkumro’ (type of pumpkin), cucumber and banana.

Maha-Nabami: The last day of Durga Puja; commencement of ’Sandhi Puja’. Nabami Bhog…Goddess Durga is offered food, which is later distributed among the devotees.

“Sandhi puja” (108 ’Dip’ lighted): The end moment of Ashtami and the beginning of Nabami is the time for Sandhi Puja. At this time Devi Durga transformed into Devi Camunda to kill the Mahishasura (the Buffalo Demon).

Bijoya-Dashami: The day when Goddess Durga accompanied with her children sets for Kailash, her husband’s abode. With a heavy heart the Bengalis immerse the clay idol of Durga in the sacred Ganges bidding her goodbye and earnestly waiting to see her again the next year.
“Sindur Khela” (vermillion game): A major event of Dashami. Married women apply vermilion to each other and greet each other with sweets. It is in the evening when Goddess Durga is immersed Bengalis greet each other with bijoya greetings and men follow the customary ’Kolakuli’ (embrace each other).

The information from site:

Durga Puja is the most important festival of Bengalis. Durga Puja is celebrated with joy all over India, especially West Bengal in worship of Goddess Durga. Singing, dancing, sweets & gaiety are an integral part of the Durga Pooja Festival. People send Durga Puja Gifts to dear ones and express good wishes. Durga Puja, the festival of Bengalis is the worship of ’Shakti’ or the divine power. Most of the religious celebrations in the world have legends surrounding them. The fables are generally the fight between the evil and the good, the dark forces eventually succumbing to the divine. Worship of Goddess Durga is based on myths where Durga symbolizes the divine power.


(the first year student of RSUH are eating prasad) 


Mahishasura, the king of Asuras, through years of austerities, was once granted a boon by Lord Bramha, that no man or deity would be able to kill him. The immense power filled in him the urge to rule over the world. He started to terrorize heaven and the inhabitants. He pervaded the world with his battalion of Asuras and plundered and ruthlessly killed the people. Chaos and anarchy reigned. Gods were driven from heaven and Mahishasura usurped the throne.The Gods scared and unable to combat him, requested Lord Shiva, Lord Bramha, Lord Vishnu to stop Mahishasura’s tyranny. In answer, the three Gods combined their divine energy and summoned up a feminine form so brilliantly glaring that it illuminated the heavens. This combined power fell on the residence of Sage Kattyana in the krishna chaturdashi (fourteenth day of new moon) in the month of Ashwin (September-October). From the glow emerged Devi Durga, a beautiful yellow woman with ten arms riding a lion. Despite her grace she bore a menacing expression, for Durga was born to kill. Fully grown and armed by the gods, beautiful Durga was named “Kattyani” as she is born in the ashram of sage Kattyana. The sage worshipped her for sukla saptami, asthami and nabami tithi then on the tithi of Dashami she killed Masishasura. She was sent forth against Mahishasura armed by symbols of divine power; Vishnu’s discus; Shiva’s trident; Varuna’s conchshell; Agni’s flaming dart; Vayu’s bow; Surya’s quiver and arrow; Yama’s iron rod; Indra’s thunderbolt; Kubera’s club and a garland of snakes from Shesha and a lion as a charger from Himalayas. A fierce battle took place. Finally when Mahishasura in the guise of a buffalo charged against Durga, the Devi beheaded the buffalo and from it emerge Mahishasura in his original form. Durga pierced his chest with the trident and relieved the world from the evil power. That is why she is ’Durgatinashini Durga’, our mother goddess who destroys the evil, protects her devotees and establishes peace and prosperity on earth.

We worship Durga as the mother goddess, the epitome of ’Shakti’ (divine power), to deliver us from the evil and bring peace and prosperity in our lives. But the most interesting part of Durga Puja is that, instead of placing Durga on a high alter and worshipping her from a distance the Bengalis embrace her in their hearts and make her an inseparable member of the family. We welcome Durga to the earth as our daughter who comes at her parents’ home for her annual visits.

Durga stays for four days-Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami and Nabami along with her children, Ganesha, Laxmi, Kartik and Saraswati and sets for her husband’s abode on Vijaya Dashami.

Durga’s mode of journey to the earth is detailed in scriptures. The modes, an elephant, a horse, palanquin, boat all signify luck or omen which influence the life on earth. The elephant signifies prosperity and good harvest while journey on a horse back indicates drought, a palanquin spells wide spread epidemic and the boat suggests flood and misery.
The worship of Devi Durga in the month of October however owes its origin to Krittibas Ojha’s “Ramayana”. Sree Rama hastily worships Durga,the goddess of ’Shakti’, just before he sets for Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana. According to Puranas, King Suratha, used to worship the goddess Durga in spring. Thus Durga Puja was also known as Basanti Puja. But Rama prepones the Puja and worships the Devi in autumn and that is why it is known as ’Akal Bodhon’ or untimely worship. Over the years, this Akal Bodhon has become the tradition among Bengalis (Bangalis) and in Bengal.

3 comments on “Durga Puja in Moscow. Religion in Red City.

  1. Sonia Maino Singh Grandy.
    October 4, 2009

    Durga Puja in Moscow,But not in Rome. Thanks! Sonia Gandhi & Dr. Monmohan Singh for activating Our Muslim Ambassador in Rome to do accordingly.

    In Rome, Durga is not welcome.

    Kanchan Gupta.

    What does it mean to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome? It means to be humiliated, harassed and hounded by city officials who happen to be pious Christians. Alright, I could be utterly wrong in presuming they are pious since I have no independent confirmation of their piety or otherwise. But let’s get back to the question with which I began. Late Thursday night I was at the park near my house where the local Bengalis organise Durga Puja every year. It’s a raucous celebration of faith and culture. The food stalls are invariably hugely popular and there I was with my nine-year-old daughter, standing in a queue for kathi rolls. After what seemed like an interminable wait, it was our turn to be served. Just then my BlackBerry beeped. Balancing the piping hot rolls, dripping oil, tomato ketchup, green chilli sauce and lemon juice, in one hand, I tried to read the e-mail on my handset.

    No luck. I got shoved around, nearly dropped both rolls and my phone, and decided to let the e-mail wait. Later, away from the crowd, I checked the e-mail and it was a fascinating story. Since the identity of the person who had sent the mail is not really relevant, let me reproduce the text: “The Municipal Police authorities of Rome have today withdrawn permission, granted three weeks ago, to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. The cancellation came a few hours before the Ambassador of India was scheduled to inaugurate the Puja at 8 pm local time. No acceptable explanation has been given. This has caused the local Indian community the loss of thousands of Euros spent in preparatory arrangements. The same thing was done in the same manner in 2008 also. Please monitor developments.”

    Now that’s awful, I told myself, here I am having kathi rolls and there they can’t even celebrate their own festival. On Friday, I called a friend in Rome who provided me with the latest details. Our Ambassador, Mr Arif Shahid Khan, a feisty man who has in the past taken up the issue of Sikhs being forced to take off their turbans at Italian airports, campaigned throughout the day, calling up officials, including the Mayor of Rome, and contacting members of the ‘Friends of India’ group in the Italian Parliament, arguing with them why permission for the Puja should be restored. By evening, the authorities had reversed their order and permission was granted to celebrate Durga Puja, which will now begin on Saturday, Ashtami — a full 48 hours behind schedule. Provided, of course, there is no last minute cancellation, as it happened on Thursday. Mr Khan will inaugurate the Puja, an honour he richly deserves.

    The story behind the cancellation needs to be told, if only to point out that Christian countries in the West, whose Governments so blithely criticise the ‘lack’ of ‘religious freedom’ in India, have no compunctions about trampling on Hindu sentiments at home. After last year’s experience, when permission for celebrating Durga Puja in Rome was abruptly withdrawn by officials who cited specious reasons to justify their grossly unfair decision, the organisers, led by Mr Rajesh Sahani, a Sindhi from Kolkata who speaks flawless Bengali, took ample precautions this year. They were given permission to organise the Puja at Parko Centocelle, a public park on Via Cailina, Torpignattara. Three weeks ago, permission was granted for the Puja at the park and necessary formalities were completed.

    Early this past week, the Puja organisers were told they could not use the park as a crime had been committed there and the location posed security-related problems. The organisers agreed to change the venue. Another park was selected, permission was given to celebrate Durga Puja there, and the preparations began all over again in right earnest. Then, like a bolt from the blue, at 4 pm on Thursday came the withdrawal of permission by the Municipal Police. The organisers were bluntly told to pack up and leave hours before Durga Puja was scheduled to begin with Akal Bodhon in the evening. Why? No reason was proffered.

    Some officials are believed to have told the organisers that the cancellation of permission at the eleventh hour, both last year and this year, was meant to be “retaliatory action against the persecution of Christians in India”. It may be recalled that the President of Italy, Mr Giorgio Napoletano, has been vociferous in demanding that Europe should do more in support of Christians in India and to help them ‘affirm their right to religious freedom’. The Government of Italy has in the past summoned the Ambassador of India to convey to him that it has “deep concern and sensitivity for the ongoing inter-religious violence… that has caused the death of many Christians.” The Pope has been no less harsh in denouncing India.

    There could be another reason, apart from its “deep concern” about the welfare of Christians in India, for Italy’s callous disregard of the sentiments of Hindus in that country. Although the Italian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, under the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, Italy recognises only the three religions of Semitic origin — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All other religions are no more than paganism and are to be shamed and shunned. The Vatican would not countenance any open breach of the Lateran Treaty; Italy would not want to be seen as recognising Hinduism.

    “It’s only natural that Italy should have a surfeit of churches. But it’s the rejection of any other faith than Christianity, Judaism and Islam that explains why there are so many mosques but virtually no temples in Italy although this country has a large Hindu expatriate population,” my friend told me while regretting the attitude of the Government and the local authorities. According to him, there are only three temples in Italy: One in a garage in Venice; another at Frescolo and the third at Reggio Emilia. These survive at the mercy of local zoning officials.

    But for Mr Arif Shahid Khan’s pro-active involvement — most Ambassadors tend to stay aloof from community affairs — this year too there would have been no Durga Puja in Rome. Indians in Italy owe him a debt of gratitude. So do Bangladeshis who are equal participants in this annual celebration of dharma’s victory over adharma, of the triumph of good over evil. Cultural and linguistic affinities unite Bengalis, irrespective of whether they are from the west or east of Padma, during this autumnal festival celebrated around the world.

    Meanwhile, let’s not get carried away by the West’s bilious and bogus criticism of ‘lack of’ religious freedom in India and indulge in self-flagellation. Let the West look at its own ugly, septic warts. If Christians can celebrate Christmas in New Delhi, Hindus have the right to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. This is non-negotiable.



    • Sohini Gandhi
      November 29, 2009

      Hindus and Jews demand probe into Durgapuja hurdles in Rome

      Hindus and Jews have asked for thorough enquiry into the reportedly last minute withdrawal of the permission by officials to celebrate Durgapuja festival in a public park in Rome (Italy).

      Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a joint statement in Nevada today, said that it amounted to humiliation of the entire Hindu community.

      Although, reportedly after lot of persuasion, the permission was later restored, but devotees say that it delayed the festival by 48 hours. According to reports, similar incident happened last year also.

      What happened to the provision for freedom of religion in the Italian constitution, Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, and Rabbi Freirich asked.

      Though largely Catholic, Italy has significant non-Catholic Christian communities

      , Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, and atheist/agnostic, etc. “Religious Freedom Report 2008” of the U.S. Department of State, writing about Italy, points out: “There were occasional reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice”.

      Hindu Goddess Durga is honored during Durgapuja festival as the savior of the world from evil. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksha (liberation) is its ultimate goal.


    • Raj Sarkar
      October 4, 2010


      I just wanted to know whether Durga Puja be held this year or not. If it is being held I would like to know about the places. I am studying in L’Aquila, which is one and a half hour ride from Rome. So, I was wondering if i can get some information regarding the location, I would love to come down and enjoy the festival time there with my fellows.



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This entry was posted on September 26, 2009 by in Hindu Puja, World Hindus and tagged , , .
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