Durga Puja is more than the periodically observed navratra in the subcontinent, or a joyous autumn harvest festival. Spiritually, it runs so much deeper than that: it marks the battle of Devi Durga with the king of asuras, Lord Mahishasura. The great austerities of the latter had earned him from Brahma Himself the boon that he could be overpowered by no male, and it had filled the buffalo-king (‘mahish’ in Sanskrit means ‘buffalo’) with the kind of arrogance that is possible only at the realm of the asuras.
So when the devaloka army succumbed to him in battle, they gathered in great solemnity to put together a nari-roopa (female form) that would be the death of him. While the very idea of it was laughable to Mahishasura, he ended up vanquished and bleeding at Her feet – a powerful image, the Mahishasuramardini (in Sanskrit ‘mardini’ means ‘female annihilator’), that is traditionally reproduced in abundance across Bengal, Odisha, and Assam during the Durga Puja festival.