Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess

The Liturgy of the Durgā Pūjā with Interpretations

By Hillary Rodrigues

Subjects: Religion
Series: SUNY series, McGill Studies in the History of Religions, A Series Devoted to International Scholarship
Paperback : 9780791454008, 433 pages, March 2003
Hardcover : 9780791453995, 433 pages, March 2003

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Table of contents




A Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation

1: Introduction


Genesis of this Study
The Durga Puja



2: The Setting


Which Navaratra?
Which Goddess?
Which Durga Puja?
Durga Puja in Bengal
Durga Puja in Banaras
Bengali Brahmanas in Banaras
The Ritual Performer (Purohita)
The Audience
Ritual Manuals
English Literature on the Durga Puja
This Description of the Durga Puja


3: Overview of the Durga Puja


General Comments on Puja
Overview of the Ritual



4: The Durga Puja


4. 1: Preliminaries
4. 2: Bodhana
4. 3: Adhivasa
4. 4: Saptami
4. 5: Mahastami
4. 6: Sandhi Puja
4. 7: Mahanavami
4. 8: Vijaya Dasami



5: The Nature of Puja

6: The Nature of the Great Goddess


Gynomorphic Forms of the Goddess
Yantric Forms of the Devi
The Devi as Elemental Substances
The Devi as Life Forms


7: Functions of the Durga Puja


Cosmic Rejuvenation
Empowerment: Personal, Sovereign, Communal, Political, Economic
Controlled Fertility
Religious Ritual as Illustrated by the Durga Puja






A first-hand description of the Durga Puja, the Hinda celebration of the Great Goddess.


During a nine-day period every autumn, Hindus in India and throughout the world worship the Great Goddess, Durgā--the formidable deity who is loved like a mother. One of the most dramatic and popular of these celebrations is the Durgā Pūjā, a rite noted for its visual pageantry, ritual complexity, and communal participation. In this book, Hillary Peter Rodrigues describes the Bengali style of Durgā Pūjā practiced in the sacred city of Banaras from beginning to end. A romanization of the Sanskrit litany is included along with an English translation.

In addition to the liturgical description, Rodrigues provides information on the rite's component elements and mythic aspects. There are interpretive sections on puja, the Great Goddess, women's roles in the ritual, and the socio-cultural functions of the ritual. Rodrigues maintains that the Durgā Pūjā is a rite of cosmic rejuvenation, of empowerment at both the personal and social levels, and a rite that orchestrates manifestations of the feminine, both Divine and human.

Hillary Peter Rodrigues is Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Associate Professor in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Lethbridge. He is the author of Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti's Thought.


"…[a] significant analytic overview of an important ritual's layered meanings … this book is a critical reference work on the subject of Durgā pūjā and promises to be a useful resource for anyone interested in further study. " — International Journal of Hindu Studies

"As a study of the liturgy, this book is certainly meticulously researched, and the author takes great care to explain the various elements on the basis of readings of the available printed sources and to incorporate countless examples of stories, myths, and everyday references. " — The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This book fills a niche. There is no complete translation and step-by-step presentation of the Durga Puja. The Durga Puja is a topic which is significant not only for the study of Hindu goddesses, but also for all kinds of Hindu puja and for ritual studies in general. " --Kathleen M. Erndl, coeditor of Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses

"The textual detail of the puja and its analysis is detailed, nuanced, and compelling. The descriptive material on the social, narrative, aesthetic, and performative dimensions is also well done. This will be the book on Durga Puja. " -- Paul B. Courtright, coeditor of From the Margins of Hindu Marriage