Durga Pujas outside Bengal

Durga Pujas outside Bengal

September 25, 2014

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.

Just 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 festival. 


DURGA PUJAS OUTSIDE BENGAL

Jamshedpur

Jamshedpur 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 puja committees.

                                                      Kasidih Durga Puja pandal, Jamshedpur, 2013                                                    Source: The Avenue Mail


Patna

Patna 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.

Patna 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


Delhi

In 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 families.

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.

                                                        At CR Park Durga Puja Samity                                                                               Source: CR Park Durga Puja


Mumbai

Many 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 others.  

                                                                 The 2013 idol of Bengal Club                                                          Source: Chronicles of the Sassy Fork


Chennai

This 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. 

                                                                      Preparations at The Bengal Association                                     Source: The Bengal Association, Chennai


Assam

In 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.

                                                                      A pandal in Silchar, 2013                                                                                Source: Silchar.Newstand


The 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

One can almost say that wherever Bengalis go, Durga Puja follows. The spread of Durga Pujas all over the world is proof of that.

Pujas 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.

Though shortened 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.

The 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.   

                                                                    Bangiya Sanskritic Parishad, 2013                                                                                             Source: Radio Bangla Net

                                                                                     
In 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 across England.

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.

In 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.

In 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.

                                                               Bay Area Probasi, USA                                                                           Source: Washington Bangla Radio


                                                                       Moscow Durga Puja Association                                                         Source: Washington Bangla Radio


                                                                      Durga Puja organised by Prabashi in Hounslow, London                                           Source: ukprabashi.org


                                                                        Singapore Bengali Association                                                               Source: Washington Bangla Radio



                                                                       Durga Puja at Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka, 2013                                                      Source: Wikipedia



Lead image: Courtesy Indian Community Centre of Garden State


Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv


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