Ma Durga, Joi Durga!
Bengalis in the city are all set to celebrate Durga Puja. It's time to sing and dance. And polish off roshogollas and shondesh...
THEY ARE away from home and miss the company of their dear ones. But they get over their homesickness when they recreate an atmosphere of religious fervour and festivity during Durga Puja. This year too, the 80-odd Bengali families will get together at the Hassan Marikkar Hall from October 2 to 5 to celebrate Durga Puja, under the banner of the Trivandrum Bengalee Association.
"Durga Puja is our most important festival. Durga is worshipped as Mahamaya, the Divine Mother, symbol of the triumph of good over evil. During the puja, every Bengali family welcomes the deity as though she is a married girl visiting her parents," explains Dr. Santanu Das Gupta, senior engineer at the VSSC.
"Our celebrations may lack the pomp and splendour of traditional puja pandals back home in Bengal. But the togetherness we share makes up for the shortcomings," he says.
Every year, artists are brought down from West Bengal to make the idols of Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Karthik and Ganesh.
Dr. Gupta reminisces how 15 bachelors conducted the first Puja in a friend's house, way back in 1971. "We were all thrilled and one of our engineer colleagues made the Mahishasura Mardini idol." This was about the time the Bengalee Association was taking shape.
Durga Puja has, over the years, become a forum to showcase Bengali culture, in Thiruvananthapuram. "Young Bengalis growing up outside their native place know little about their traditions," says Sreeroopa Mukhopadhyay, a singer of Rabindra Sangeet who was born and brought up in Santiniketan.
The children's programmes have been conceived with a view to teaching young Bengalis about their culture.
Hena Manna has been busy teaching children Bengali rhymes and dances, based on Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Githi. They will stage a play, `Kalar Jwala', scripted and directed by Hena.
The cultural fare by elders includes a drama, `Satti Bhooter Goppo' (The true story of a ghost), and a jugalbandi by Hindustani vocalist Abhradita Banerjee and sitar player Shyamoli Ghosh. The Malayalam translation of a Tagore poem will also be presented.
Youngsters like Arnab Mukherjee are more Malayali than Bengali, having been in Kerala from childhood. "I've never visited a traditional puja pandal. It's a homely affair out here and I enjoy it".
There is a custom of gifting clothes to relatives during Puja. Women, here, say they miss the fun of Puja shopping. "Since my parents are far away, I send them money to buy new clothes," says Amita Khanra.
The Puja celebration is not limited to Bengalis. A lot of Malayalis and those from other communities join the revelry. "Moreover, for the past 30 years, Krishnan Potti, a Malayali priest, has been performing the pujas for us. Though past 80, he promptly joins us every year," says Dr. Gupta.
`Anandamela' is a big draw. "We have a whole array of Bengali sweets for sale and there's a huge rush on that day," says Sreeroopa Mukhopadhyay.
After four days of pujas, fun and frolic, on the fifth day, the idols are immersed in the Veli Lake. Just before immersion is sindoor khela, when married women smear sindoor on Goddess Durga's forehead. Then they go about smearing the sacred sindoor on each other. It's a highly emotional moment for women -- they are bidding farewell to a daughter who had come home from her shoshur bari.
ANITHA K. MOOSATH
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