ISW Durga Puja
By Shivangi Das Gupta
Durga puja is an annual celebration that takes place every October and is a cultivation of social, cultural and religious gathering. In this interview Shivangi asks Barin Bando about what it means to celebrate and experience this event.
Barin Bando says that the reason Durga puja is celebrated in October is because it symbolizes the best time of the year: when monsoon is over, winter is ahead and harvesting has just been done. The five days of celebration are Sashti, Saptami, Ashtami, Nabami and Dashami. The first day signifies the welcoming of Ma Durga and her four children into her paternal house. On this day the deity is unveiled. On the second day, Saptami, the nine forms of Durga are worshipped. The third day celebrates the day Durga killed Mahishasura the demon. On Nabami goddess Durga and her daughters are celebrated and showered with gifts. And on the last and final day the Durga idol is immersed into the Ganges River and married women partake in Sindhur khela, where women play with vermillion to show respect and gratitude.
Durga puja is happening all over America on a larger scale because of the influx of Indians, but Barin Bando mentions how it can be easy to forget the source of this fun. Indian society has given us the opportunity to experience the social aspect while maintaining originality. It is quite different from India where those who cannot travel to different parts of India may have a limited exposure to the different Navratri/Durga puja/Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. But with the wide range of diverse celebrations in America, a door is opened for everyone to experience different traditions.
The different activities like language school and Humrahee and what ISW has to offer is the magnet which attracts people to come and celebrate this event. The cultural performances, the well performed puja, and the opportunity to mingle with family and friends is what people look forward to when attending and this is why it is important to have all three aspects. This year Barin Bando invited six singers who are part of the Indian Ensemble in the Berklee College of Music, an internationally acclaimed music school located in Boston who performed a beautiful collection on the Nabami day. Several accomplished dancers who completed their arangetram were also invited to showcase their talent on stage at ISW Durga puja by portraying items that told the stories of Ma Durga.
Barin Bando finishes with some childhood memories of Durga puja in Kolkata. He mentions it as feeling like a “happy, good time”. He specifically remembers going to a pandal with his grandma where he would watch her offer her prayers to God and would do the same. The music in the air and the rhythm of the dhak are also some fond memories for him. There is generally less pressure in school, families are in good spirits no matter their situation and helping each other out.
He hopes this festivity continues to grow with celebrity and local talents at ISW in years to come and wishes to see it spread to communities outside the Bengali community.