Durga Puja has been
anointed as the annual festival of Bengal for many decades now. The pomp
and grandeur of Durga Puja is unmatched, and is indeed one of the
best-attended and most popular of festivals in the country.
like the people in West Bengal, however, for the Bengalis in other parts
of India and for the Bengali diaspora spread out in distant lands too,
Durga Puja is the time of the year for an annual get-together. The
community feeling is never stronger. It is a sort of welcome reunion, a
respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
In many cities
like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and in a few others too, organisers,
instead of taking the hassle of buying and then transporting the idols
to their pandals, bring in artists from Kolkata. They spend almost a
month there, creating idols for many of the Durga Pujas together. The
artists are very well looked after and are paid very well too, often
more than what they can get in their home state. Overseas, pujas though
ship the idols. They mostly buy from artists of Kumortuli in Kolkata.
But because of the cost involved, idols are bought only every few years.
After Durga Puja is over, all the idols are carefully packed and stored
for the next year.
It must also be said that, just like in
Bengal, in other places too, it is not just the Bengali community which
participates in Durga Pujas. They are of course organised mostly by
Bengalis, but more often than not, people of all communities partake of
the celebrities, proving that Durga Puja has become a truly national
DURGA PUJAS OUTSIDE BENGAL
is one city where for decades, Durga Puja has been a very big occasion.
It is arguably only second to Kolkata in terms of hosting Durga puja
pandals, with as many as 290 big and small pandals dotting the city and
its outskirts and as many as 25 fairs near big-budget pandals in Sonari,
Circuit House Area, Tuiladungri, Golmuri and Jugsalai. Just like in
Kolkata, the fervour is all-encompassing. A lot of people go out to see
the pandals and idols, and have a wonderful time generally. Grand
pandals are constructed in many places, and the idols are also
beautifully done. Various cultural programmes are also organised by the
is another place where Durga Puja is held in a very big way. In fact,
Bihar, in general, just like West Bengal, is home to some of the best
Durga Pujas. Hundreds of pandals are set up, and grand ones at that.
witnesses a huge turnout during Durga Puja. This year, 205 puja
committees in Patna have been licensed to erect pandals in Patna (sadar)
subdivision while 54 have been licensed in Paliganj. Barh and Masaurhi
will have 31 and 67 pandals, respectively, coming up this Durga Puja.
Dak Bungalow Road Durga Puja, Patna, 2012 Source: View Patna
all major cities in India is Durga Puja celebrated, organised by
Bengali communities and organisations. Delhi easily beats the others in
terms of the number of pujas organised. Some of the oldest Durga Pujas
outside West Bengal are organised in Delhi. The tradition of community
Durga Pujas in the capital gathered momentum with the shifting of the
capital of the British Raj from Kolkata in 1911, when employees of
various government offices moved en masse to the city with their
Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, also known as the Kashmere
Gate Durga Puja, is the oldest community Durga Puja of Delhi. Another
major cultural hub that developed in the early years was the New Delhi
Kali Bari on Mandir Marg, whose Durga Puja draws Bengalis from all over
India. Other prominent Durga Pujas dating back to the pre-independence
years are the Timarpur and Karol Bagh Bangiya Samsad pujas. Similarly,
in the most visible neighbourhood of Bengalis, Chittaranjan Park, the CR
Park Durga Puja Samity has been hosting its own Durga Puja at the
spacious Kali Bari since 1975. This year, the theme is based on the
Rajasthani folk puppet art form called Kathputhli. In fact, CR Park is
choc-a-block with Durga Puja pandals.
grand Durga Pujas are also organised in Mumbai, given the huge Bengali
presence there. The Lokhandwala Durga Puja, organised by the well-known
singer, Abhijeet, is perhaps the most attended, and the most
celebrity-visited, Durga Puja in the city. The list is long, including
Bengal Club Durga Puja in Shivaji Park (one of the oldest, stepping into
its 79th edition in 2014), Powai Durga Puja, North Bombay Sarbojanin
Durga Puja, Sarbojanin Durga Puja in Mulund, Bombay Durgabari Samiti,
Kalbadevi Sarbajanin Durga Puja, Vashi Durga Puja (in the satellite town
of Vashi), Shakti Samanta’s Puja near National College and many
is another city whose substantial Bengali community organises many
Durga Pujas. Perhaps the oldest and the grandest is the one organised by
The Bengal Association. Among the others are Ramakrishna Mission
Ashram, Ananda Mutt, South Madras Cultural Association, Besant Nagar
Adyar Durga Puja, Dakshini The Bengali Association, Anna Nagar Puja,
Indira Nagar Puja, etc.
Assam, after Bihu, Durga Puja is the most popular festival. It is
celebrated by both the Assamese and the very large population of
Bengalis. In Silchar, more than 300 pandals are created. According to
the historian, the late Benudhar Sarma, the present form of worship of
Durga with earthen sculpture in Assam was started during the reign of
the Ahom king, Susenghphaa or Pratap Singha. In Assam, the worship of
Goddess Durga is also done in many temples like Kamakhya, Digheswari,
Maha Bhairabi, Ugrotara, Tamreswari, etc.
above is a listing of just some of the places where Durga Pujas are
organised in a big way. The festival is celebrated in many other places
all over India, with as much dedication and fervor as in Bengal.
DURGA PUJAS OUTSIDE INDIA
can almost say that wherever Bengalis go, Durga Puja follows. The
spread of Durga Pujas all over the world is proof of that.
outside India are different in some ways, though. For one, it is more
often than not a weekend affair rather than a four- or five-day one.
It’s simply not possible to get leave for a festival not native to that
country. Usually a community hall is hired for the purpose, as it’s
difficult to get space or permission to build a pandal like in India.
Earlier these were small community get-togethers. Now, with a larger
pool of Indians in many places (Durga Pujas outside are often than not
pan-Indian affairs), the can be big affairs.
affiars, there is no lack of devotion. All rules and regulations are
followed as much as possible in the circumstances. So these pujas don’t
heed the usual tithi (prescribed auspicious moments in the
almanac). All rituals follow one after the other. The food is usually
ordered from restaurants. Smaller get-togethers do have the women
cooking, but that is rare nowadays. The money is collected through
selling tickets for the entire programme – the puja, the food and the
cultural functions in the evenings, which are mostly Bengali.
There are Bengali associations all over the world, the most being in USA.
Bangiya Sanskritic Parishad of Glasgow is an exception in that it
organises Durga Puja as a five-day affair, as in India. It is the best
in Scotland by a long haul, and one of the biggest in the world. It was
started in 1981 by a group of nostalgic Bengalis and has now, after more
than three decades, grown into the biggest celebration of Durga Puja in
Scotland. People from all over the country come to Clarkston Hall at
the Couper Institute to be a part of the five-day celebrations. And it’s
not just Bengalis, but all Indians. It is a reunion of sorts as much as
a religious celebration.
the US, there are 68 registered Bengali cultural associations, all of
which organise Durga Pujas. And with the number of Bengalis having
increased over the years (a large number in the Silicon Valley), many of
the associations organise grand affairs.
In the UK, there are
Bengali associations in many cities which celebrate Durga Puja. London
has some of the biggest Pujas. Birmingham has a large community of
Bengalis, and Indans in general. Pujas are organised in Liverpool and
Reading, among the bigger places, and in many other smaller towns all
Durga Pujas are organised in many other
countries, including South Africa, Canada, Russia, Italy, Malaysia,
Singapore, Austria, Belgium, and even, in recent years, in the
Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
Bangladesh, Durga Puja is celebrated with much fervour. According to a
2007 report, Bangladesh has about 27,000 pujas celebrated across the
country each year, of which 470 puja pandals are in Dhaka alone. The
Hindu population, although a minority in the country, celebrates their
most important festival with their Muslim brothers and sisters.
the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi was the first to celebrate Durga
Puja way back in 1985. The first Puja was performed at a Bengali
residence, but a few years later, the festivities were shifted to the
Indian Social Club in Abu Dhabi. Being the first Puja in the gulf
region, the celebration had Bengalis from all across UAE taking active
interest to make the five-day festival a success. But due to some
intermittent reason, puja celebrations had to be discontinued from 1990.
Years later, in 2007, a handful Bengalis living in Abu Dhabi formed an
association called AUH BONG and started the festival again, which
continues till date.
Durga Puja organised by Prabashi in Hounslow, London Source: ukprabashi.org Durga Puja at Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka, 2013 Source: Wikipedia
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Lead image: Courtesy Indian Community Centre of Garden State