Sunday, September 27, 2009

Durga Puja ..... In our hearts and minds



The Bengali self within me does not allow me not to think and talk about the Durga Puja while at home we are celebrating the biggest annual festival. This is the time when all Bengalis come together in celebration leaving behind all their differences, well most of it! This year we did not get the taste of the Puja, we thought of going up to Muscat and then we thought of visiting Abu Dhabi but finally decided to sit back ruminating through all the earlier Puja. The only taste of Puja this year was when my brother let us listen live to the “dhaak and kasha” playing in our building for the “shandhya arti” via Yahoo Messenger voice service.
The puja in Agartala used to be the greatest in terms of fun and enjoyment and I cannot imagine having the same fun in any other time of place. Ironically I did not quite enjoy the celebrations in Kolkata to the same extent even though it is the heart of the Bengali land. But it definitely provides immense pleasure to see how vibrant a place can be and how all sections of people can have fun forgetting all their worries.
Delhi which was my next stop used to be quite a different place. For us it was the first time that we realized that the 4 days of Durga Puja could be working days. This is something which is quite unimaginable for a typical Bengali. We used to have a small theatre group of our college friends and we used to go around the city (with prior booking) and perform one act plays with portable sets, stages and equipments which we carried along in our car. I used to be the light man or the prompter and giving hands to all the ancillary works. We could perform only in the outskirts while the stars performed in the downtown. I still remember the massive gathering and celebrations in C R Park areas both the old ones and the new one that started in pocket 40.
After New Delhi, it was Muscat. Muscat had two well structured temples and is the only place in the Middle East to have proper temples. Every few years there used to be a new idol and I was there in one such occurrence while we unpacked the Goddess who came all the way from Kolkata and put her up in the altar. The ladies usually would take care of the worshipping and other rituals during the morning hours. The men folk used to gather after working hours and after few moments of socializing all used to move out to one of the auditoriums reserved for the purpose far away from the temple. It was a big community get together and invariably a “Good food – Good wine” event.
Twice I went to Sohar, a suburban town and a few hours’ drive from Muscat where the Bangladeshi community hosts two Puja. I was touched by the way they received us took us among them in spite of being total stranger and mind you this is in stark contrast to their Indian counterpart (outside India).
We love to sing the song ….
“Mehman jo hamara hota hai
Who jan se pyara hota hai
Zyada nahin lalach humko
Thode mein guzara hota hai”
(The guests who visit our homes are dearer than our lives, we do not ask for a lot and are content with whatever little we have). And they love to practice the same! Since then I only visit their celebrations! Because they are so much like us yet so different. I am not sure how many of you will agree to this?
While I was in Bahrain there used to be two Puja in the same temple, one by the Indian Bengalis and one by the Bangladeshi counterparts.
And then it was Kuwait and again we spent our time with the Bangladeshi community and we enjoyed a lot. Here are a few images of the Puja in Kuwait.
Finally Shobai ke janai Sharod Abhinondan!
Wishes to you all on this festive season!


10 comments:

  1. I appreciate for your beautiful post about our biggest festival Durga Puja. As I was at Muscat for 2 years so I am very well aware of Durga Puja over there. We had a wonderful time with all our Bengali friends. Shubho Bijoya.

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  2. I have mostly lived outside calcutta, so pujo days were usually working days, but dad took off and we went and had the khichuri, each year whereever we lived, Delhi Pujo I have enjoyed for 2 years, in vasant kunj and in CR park, have loved the homely atmosphere of vasant kung pujo, In muscat, I agree completely with you that the sohar pujo hospitality is lovely, also the fact that there is dhunuchi and dhak, the bangiyo parishad here in muscat is snobbish to say the least..but things are changing, and to me it does not really matter beyond a point, as long as I can go greet the Goddess, lkaugh with my friends, and have lovely bhog, the snobs can stay with their stiff upper lips!!

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  3. This is very interesting to me, as it is such a different world of traditions and celebrations that I do not recognize. I thin though I can relate to the fact that you feel out of place when a country you live in doesn't recognize a holiday that means a lot to you. I have gotten over the years used to celebrating Thanksgiving, a major holiday in the US, only to find it's total absence utterly strange when I returned back to Europe.
    Thank you for your always kind comments at my place.;)

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  4. Wish you a great festive season.. the line above are very sweet... Thanks for sharing!!

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  5. I loved the Pujo celebrations in Delhi. Have been closely associated with the Minto Road Pujo in my school days and later in Vasant Kunj where we stayed .
    This time we had a lot of fun. I had some relatives staying at home. We went pandal hopping. It was great.
    Shubho Bijoya to you and your family.

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  6. Also wishing you a wonderful festive season. Great hospitality can be underrated in my neck of the woods; I think I'd like to write a post about it one day. Thank you for inspiring me.

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  7. Is the Bangladeshi community to which you are referring in the Puja celebrations Hindu or Muslim? I know Bangladesh is a Muslim country, but I can't imagine Bengali Hindus being different whether they are from Bangladesh or India!

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  8. Thanks to every one for your thoughts and comments.
    Babli
    So you too have the Muscat connection. Yes it was great fun in Muscat during the puja .. except for the fact that one has to sit with the coupon on hand to have the prasaad.
    Sujata
    In general Muscat Puja was quite a fun. In Delhi, I never was part of any Puja but another person in the crowd which swarmed the puja pandals. I like the Khichuri part the most. Especially with begun bhaja and niramish torkari!
    Protégé
    India is so diverse that every hour you travel through; you have a different set of traditions and practices. The festivals are what makes people homesick and reminds them of their roots.
    Swatantra
    Thanks
    Aparna
    In Delhi we did not do much of a pandal hopping other than the drama bit of it. But visiting CR Park Pujas was enough at that time with restricted time and mobility that I had.
    Helen
    I would wait to read about the hospitality from you one day.
    Gaelikaa
    Bangladesh and west Bengal used to be one entity once upon a time. It was split on the basis of religion and Muslim majority part was named East Pakistan and the Hindu majority part was West Bengal and part of India. At the time of partition there were lot of migration where people left their ancestral home of hundreds of years and switched to the other part penniless only to save their children and family from the devastating riots that started soon after the partition. It was later East Pakistan was liberated from Pakistan and became Bangladesh. But they still have many Hindus who decided not to leave their homes.
    Here in the Middle East majority of the Bangladesh people (independent of their religion) are very poor and perform mainly unskilled work. The Hindu Bangladesh people perform Durga Puja. With their limited earnings they are willing to receive us with open arms into their celebrations! Unfortunately we (Bengalis from India) somehow do not reciprocate their gestures!!

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  9. I stumbled on this post while googling for info on durga puja in kuwait. Would appreciate more info if u have...like how n whr to get in touch with the bengali association there? Any contact details etc.

    We r placed in uae..pretty soon moving to kuwait. So 1st info. I googled was about durga pujo...natural for a bengali.

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  10. I have left Kuwait in Feb 2008
    But you can reach Bengali association at
    http://www.bcskuwait.org/

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