The Durga Puja, is a famous Hindu Festival, celebrated by widely in North of India, especially in the state of West Bengal, where beautiful idols of the Mother Goddess are worshipped in a very grand manner in pandals for nine days and on the tenth day, these idols are carried out in procession for Visarjan (for the immersion in a lake or a pond) with greatest of pious emotion to the Goddess Durga.
The face of the goddess remains covered until the bodhon (unveiling) ritual is performed on Sasthi - the sixth day of the moon.
The Durga Puja, the popular festival of India is celebrated by the Hindus takes place in the month of Aswin or Kartik (September and October).
The festivities start with the first day called Mahalaya. It is also the day of the beginning of the countdown to the Durga Puja, which is celebrated in most households apart from the gaily-decorated Puja Pandals that are erect in almost every locality. It is a common belief that the Mother Lakshmi brings peace and prosperity to the human community that celebrates the Puja.
The custom of observing Durga Puja Fast is customary in Northern India. In the state of Punjab people observe fast for seven days of the nine-day-long Durga Puja Festival. The fast is broken only on the ashtami or navmi day.
Some devotees of Durga Ma consume only milk during the fasting days while some only live on fruits. Some devotees observe Ekana which means that they take one complete meal during the day. Non-vegetarian food, intoxicating substances and other forms of entertainment are completely avoided during the fasting days.
Men observing fast are not supposed to shave. Some also believe in sleeping on the ground and thereby deny themselves all luxuries and comforts.
At many places of India, there is a tradition of sowing barley seeds during the Durga Puja fasting period. In this a small bed of mud is prepared in a little container and barley seeds are sown in it. This is placed in the Puja room and cared for during the fasting period. At the end of the fast the shoots reach a height of 3-5 inches. These are pulled out and given to devotees as form of blessings.