The first day of Durga Puja is Navpatrika Puja day, which is also known as Maha Saptami. According to Hinduism, it is believed that a living medium is required to invoke the spirit of a deity. Through this living medium devotees can interact with their deity and pay homage. On Bilva Nimantran day Goddess Durga was invoked in Bilva Tree or its branch, before the Goddess was given Puja invitation for the next day.
On Maha Saptami day Goddess Durga is invoked in Navpatrika, which is a group of nine plants. Navpatrika is made by bundling nine different plants, which includes the Bilva tree branch of the previous day. Further, the Navpatrika is given a ritualistic bath in a water body, if possible in a river. Then it is adorned with a red colored or orange colored cloth and placed on a wooden seat on the right side of the image of Goddess Durga.
Maha Saptami Puja starts with Mahasnan. For this, a mirror is placed on a plate in such a way that Goddess Durga’s reflection is seen in the mirror. Ritualistic bath is given to the refection of Goddess Durga in the mirror, using different materials. After the ritualistic bath, Prana Pratishtha ritual is performed, in which image of the Goddess Durga is sanctified. After Prana Pratishtha, Shodashopachar Puja is performed, which involves elaborate worship using sixteen different Puja items.
Seventh day of Durga Puja is finished with Devi Bhog and Aarti. In West Bengal Navpatrika Puja (Nabapatrika Puja) is also known as Kolabou Puja.
Significance and Legend:
According to a Hindu legend, a Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, after years of praying to Lord Brahma, was granted a boon which made him invincible. Any man or God could not kill him. After gaining power, Mahishasura started destroying the world. He began to kill people and became a threat for Gods. To annihilate Mahishasura, Goddess Durga emerged from the collective energies of Gods as a divine feminine power. The victory of Good over the Evil is celebrated during Durga Puja.
Another popular legend says that Goddess Durga visits her mother’s place during Sharda Navratri.
Celebrations and Rituals:
Navpatrika Puja is performed on Maha Saptami. A group of Nine plants including the branch of Bilva tree is worshipped as Navpatrika, and Goddess Durga is invoked in it. Navpatrika is purified with ceremonial bathing in water. Navpatrika is decorated with a red or Orange coloured cloth and is placed next to the idol of Goddess Durga. ‘Mahasnan’ is an important ceremony of Maha Saptami Puja. A mirror is placed in such a way that the reflection of the Goddess Durga is seen in it. The reflection of Goddess Durga is offered ceremonial bathing. The ceremony of ‘Prana Pratishthan’ is performed where the idol of Goddess Durga is consecrated. Pran Pratishtha ceremony is followed by an elaborate Shodashopachara Puja where Goddess Durga is worshipped with Sixten different puja articles.