Durga Puja, the most popular festival of West Bengal, especially Kolkata, starts with the grand ceremonial worship of Goddess Durga. Most importantly, all Bengalis welcome and worship the Mother Goddess, with her four children, for a period of ten days. They indulge in the pleasure of celebrating together the homecoming of this divine feminine power.
In addition, the final four days, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami, and Bijoya Dashami become the epitome of the culmination of reunion, fun, culture, tradition, and customs. Days and Nights mingle together as the tired feet do not stop exploring Pandals in the streets of Kolkata. Moreover, it reflects the belief and the passion of the Bengalis towards this ten-armed Goddess who was the only one to defeat the Buffalo-Demon, Asura.
The term Akal actually means untimely and Bodhan is the word for awakening. Akal Bodhan, therefore, is invoking of Goddess Durga, an incarnation of Devi, at an uncustomary time. All Bengalis worship MA Durga in the Shukla Paksha of Ashwin month, which is not the actual time for commencement of the worship. That is why Durga Puja is known as Akal Bodhan.
On the sixth day of Puja, Maha Shashti, Akal Bodhan is performed after the commencement of the Kalparambha ritual. During the next four days, various other rituals like chanting Mantras, singing rats, reciting Shlokas and offerings are done followed by the immersion of the Goddess idols on the very last day.
As mentioned in Hindu Mythology, Spring Equinox is the best auspicious time for worshipping all the Gods and Goddesses. Earlier, people used to worship Goddess Durga in the springtime because it was the time of Uttorayan or the Days of the Gods.
It was much later, in the month of Ashwin, as mentioned in Ramayana, Prince Rama had to invoke the Goddess before going to war with the Demon King, Ravana. Although Prince Rama succeeded in disarming Ravanaand destroying his army, his attempts to kill him failed initially because of the boons received earlier by Ravana from Lord Brahma. So, Lord Rama had to seek the blessings of Goddess Durga, also known as the slayer of the Buffalo-Demon.
He offered 108 blue lotuses and further .ignited 108 lamps and started this out-of-season (Akal) worship (Bodhan) of Mahishasura another name of the Mother Goddess. From that day this autumnal Durga Puja came to be known as Akal Bodhan and gradually, over time, this Puja became a celebration of Power.
In Late 1500, the Landlords of Malda and Dinajpur again started the first Durga Puja in Bengal and they, too, chose Autumn as the time to invoke the ten-armed Goddess. Subsequently, the unconventional ritual of Akal Bodhan became the part of regular celebrations after Raja Kanghsanarayan of Taherpur and Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya organized this festival called Sharadiya or Autumn Durga Puja.
After that, from Sharadiya it became Sarbajanin Durga Puja. Many communities in different areas in Bengal started gathering money from the local residents to celebrate the worship of Goddess Durga in almost every neighborhood.
In short, the popularity of this festival reached new heights. Soon after, Akal Bodhan overshadowed the actual practice of worshipping Goddess Durga during the springtime. Bengalis now feel that Durga Puja is almost synonymous with words like rejoicing, rejuvenation, and togetherness.
Being a part of any celebration is also connected with the knowledge about its past. Without the roots, there will be no possibilities. Durga Puja of West Bengal has received global recognition now. But this ritual of Akal Bodhan connects it with the Hindu mythological past.