In this brief account of Durga Puja, the writer dwells on the festivities that are held in London and elsewhere in the UK with equal pomp and gaiety
By Ratnadeep Palit
The ceremonial worship of Durga, the mother goddess, is one of the most important festivals of India and Bangladesh.
Apart from being a religious festival of the Hindus, it is also an occasion for reunion and rejuvenation, and a celebration of traditional culture and customs.
The four days of `aradhana’ of Devi through Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami, is celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Eastern India, where the ten-armed goddess riding the lion is worshipped with great passion and devotion.
In the current decade, Durga Puja has become one of the major festivals in the UK, at par with the country’s Diwali celebrations.
There are over 40 organisations celebrating Durga Puja across the UK, many in London attracting people from across the communities.
With an increase in the Bengali population , there has been a matching leap in the number of Durga Pujas in the UK.
While some prefer to organise their pujas and rituals according to the almanac, others celebrate them around the weekend to ensure participation of a large number of people and their families.
Idols are sourced from Kumartuli, the colony of idol makers in North Kolkata. Most puja committees in the UK would rent a church hall, town hall or similar facilities.
There would be a huge display on a dais or stage of the Durga idol– dominating the hall like an altar and a place for offerings.
Few years back, prayers were offered very much in the Western manner, with palms simply being held together; but this has changed now.
“Puspanjali” (offering with flowers), like one does in the Indian subcontinent, has replaced it . Devotees get the opportunity to relish lavish `bhog’ at the venues.
Unlike the subcontinent, immersion of idol rarely happens. One of the puja committee members would usually pack securely and store Ma Durga’s idol in his garage for the rest of the year.
Durga puja always comes with a warm invitation to participate in various cultural and social events.
At every venue, efforts are made to fondly recreate for ourselves and our children, things big and small from our home countries that we so dearly miss in our life overseas.
Whether you have newly arrived from India or Bangladesh or have lived abroad for many years, everyone is welcomed into this festivity.
Durga pujas across the UK and Europe are now in no way less than the festivities in the Indian subcontinent. It transcends all barriers, creating a home away from home, for the ‘nostalgic’ Bengalis.
Ratnadeep Palit who works as director in an IT firm in the UK, serves in the same capacity in a hotel chain in India. After completing his BE from NIT, Silchar, he is now permanently settled in the UK. Besides being an avid reader & writer, he loves traveling & mentoring youngsters