The city’s Bengali community celebrates Durga Puja with traditional fervour
It is that auspicious time of the year when Goddess Durga slays the buffalo demon Mahisasura, marking the victory of good over evil. This cosmic event is celebrated, in different versions, all over the country as Durga Puja, Navrathri and Dussehra. In the city puja celebrations have been evolving over the years as the Bengali community has grown and crystallised to be an integral part of Kochi’s cosmopolitanism. The Kerala Banga Samskriti Sangha with its 300-odd members has once again put up a grand idol of Durga at their base in Kadavanthra.
Every day and night, for the next five days beginning today the pandal will witness a frisson of colourful activities that will bring divinity, culture, history and camaraderie under its roof. Says a beaming Abhinaba Das, president of the samaj: “Durga puja is our premier festival. We celebrate Saraswathy, Kali and Lakshmi puja too but this is our main function. We not only showcase the puja rituals and customs in our traditional way but also showcase the heritage and culture of Bengal. Being in Kerala we have integrated with the local Malayali populace and their customs. In fact we celebrate Onam and Vishu too. In our cultural programme, we have Mohiniyattam performances and hence there is an exchange of cultures.”
Tapan Gena, the idol maker, has been coming to Kochi for the past five years bringing with him materials to make the idol. Earlier he used to carry with him a lot more materials than he does now. “We procure many things locally now.” The Goddess’ hair, jewellery, clothes are still brought by him. Along with him come the dhaki, the traditional player of drum (dhol) and the priest (pujari) who conducts the prayers, the Bengali way. Earlier a cook too would come with them to make the special Bengali delicacies, but “this year we have a cook from here,” who is being supervised by our members,” says Abhinaba. Shibiraj Saha says he is honoured to be chosen by the samaj to oversee the food preparations for the festival.
The janatha bhog that will serve for 300 daily will have some traditional Bengali preparations like luchi, khichidi, baigan bhaja, chole dal with nariyal and payas. The pooja bhog offered to the Goddess is more elaborate and is reverentially prepared by members themselves.
Charchari and phoolgobi dalna are some of the specialities for the God. With prayers in full swing and food preparations in place, the community known for its cultural shows has organised entertaining evenings till Vijayadashami. Each year finds Anirban Banerjee coming up with something novel and entertaining. This year too, says Munmun Saha, in-charge of cultural programmes that he has scripted and directed a play, Biriyani. “We have been practising for the past month and a half,” she says about the host of songs, dances, fashion shows that they have planned together. “Children, young and old alike, are enthused to the hilt and are eager to be a part of the celebrations.”
At the venue, a visitor will get imbued in the spirit of festivity that pervades. And all will be mesmerised by the beauty of the idol and the power of the divine. For more details contact: 9895759980