Society

How Chennai celebrates Durga Puja

Here is our guide on where to feast on Bengali delicacies, watch a selection of entertainment and simply click selfies with the Goddess and her clan in the city

As various communities in the metropolis begin celebrating Navaratri and Durga Puja this week, fun and feasting abound. Prominent among them are the city’s numerous Bengali cultural associations, that begin working months in advance to give Chennaiites a taste of the food, culture and hospitality of their home State.

Dakshini Society in Anna Nagar has, in fact, been doing so for the past 25 years. The society is celebrating the silver jubilee of its Durga Puja celebrations this year, and Anindya Ghosh, its PR committee head, lists what they have in store.

“We usually do the cultural programme in-house, trying to explore Bengali literature and culture — Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti — and explain it to our next generation. This is the first time we are getting singers from West Bengal, to perform on the evening of Saptami (Saturday). Mallar Karmakar, a former Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa finalist and part of Amul Star Voice of India, and Topamita Ganguly — also a Sa Re Ga Ma Pa finalist and former Indian Idol performer, will be singing on our stage. Of course, the event is open to all.”

The two popular performers will also be taking the stage at other associations in the city, including at Besant Nagar. Sudip Mitra, president of South Madras Cultural Association (SMCA), that organises the puja in Besant Nagar, informs that this will be their 41st edition. “Preparations began three months before the festival, as usual,” he says, “A dance troupe from Kolkata led by the classical dancer Jhinook Mukherji will be performing on Saptami evening, and Mallar and Topamita will be performing on Ashtami (Sunday),” he says.

But of course, what really draws the city in to these celebrations is the food. SPCA is well aware of this, having been one of the city’s more popular pandal-hopping destinations for decades for just that reason.

How Chennai celebrates Durga Puja

This year’s food stalls include the usual suspects, serving everything from from luchi and Mughlai paratha to Calcutta biryani, steamed fish paturi, and rolls. “Kolkata Khash Khabar has been coming here from Kolkata to put up a stall for the past 13-odd years,” he adds.

Then there is the traditional vegetarian bhog, served after the afternoon puja everyday from Saptami to Navami. “It is open to all, with no charge as per tradition. We have a new menu each day, prepared by a cook we bring in from Kolkata,” says Mitra.

The bhog menu at Anna Nagar also changes everyday, “We end up serving about 400 different food items throughout the five days of pujo,” says Ghosh, “In the evenings, there are stalls serving momos, rolls and other Calcutta street foods.”

So does the six-year-old celebration at Dakshin Chennai Prabasi Cultural Association, Sholinganallur. “We don’t have a fixed venue per se, and generally rent suitable premises each year. For our first three years, we held it at a lawn near AGS mall, and then at a kalyana mandapam in Padur. Last year and this year, we have set up at Umadri Mahal, next to the Infosys campus on OMR,” informs PH Shivaram, a member of the committee.

    Served with love

    “We have bhog on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, approximately from 1 pm to 3 pm priced at ₹200 per person, including khichdi, luchi, vegetable labda, payesh (payasam), sweets, papad, chutney and a dry vegetable or bhaja (fry). Plus there are food stalls — including city brands like Bayleaf, Casa Tandoor, Bengali Fun Foods, Northern Connections, Kathi Roll Factory, Jagannath Hospitality, Agarwal Caterers, Skewers and Tirumala Milk— as well as stalls for handicrafts and automobiles.

    Above and beyond

    Another speciality of the Anna Nagar celebrations is its Anondomela on the inaugural evening (Friday), with treats cooked by the women and boudis of the neighbourhood, right on the heels of a Rabindra Sangeet event. From the next evening onwards, their cultural programme includes a dance drama each night, among other performances by the people of the neighbourhood.

    The Bengal Association, T Nagar, took to stage nearly a week ago, with their Mahalaya special production on September 29. Cultural programmes by the community collective will pick up again from tomorrow onwards, and the food plan, of course, is a whole other story.

    happy tummies
    • Bayleaf in Gopalapuram does a five-day “food festival” with a special menu: this year, it is from October 4 to 9, for lunch and dinner. The menu includes vegetarian dishes like shukto, dhokar dalna and paneer paturi, besides chicken chaap, bati chorchori with shrimp, chingri diye alu potol and maach potol-er dorma, to go with Bangla pulao mildly saffron-flavoured and gobindo bhog rice with ghee. Also available is brinjal fry and a slew of fish like rohu, papda and pomfret and bhetki, and desserts including malpua.
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    • The KNK Project on Khader Nawaz Khan Road has two Bengali offerings on its menu. The Bengali thali includes macher jhol (fish curry) with lentils salad, mango chutney and vegetables fried Bengali style. The a la carte menu has macher jhol and begun bhaja (brinjal fry) with rice.
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    • Bharat Bistro in Teynampet includes regional fare from across the country in its menu, and is all excited about Rajasthani cuisine this Navaratri. However, their menu also includes what they call ‘Banerjee Babu’s Sunday Meal’, including Kosha mangsho (mutton), aloo poshto (potato made with poppy), and a coconutty cholar dal along with light fluffy luchis and rice. 7824868420
    • Kappa Chakka Kandhari on Haddows Road, which has made a mark for itself with its Malayali offerings, is also offering Bengali fare this Navami, October 7. Expect a range of Bengali vegetarian fries; choice of rice including pulao, khichdi and the traditional gobindobhog rice; devilled eggs; dhoka and shorshe maach, chingri’r baatichorchori and Bangali laal mangshor jhol. 9061994007

    And then there is the SMCA Trust, which uses the occasion to raise funds for its charitable causes. Bhaskar Sain, managing trustee of SMCA Trust, says, “This is our main fund-raising activity of the year. We run a medical centre from our premises three days a week, providing free consultation. We also donate clothes and food to orphanages and old age homes, and organise clean-ups and tree planting drives.”

    The trust this year has introduced a Power Of One concept, asking people to contribute ₹365 or one hour per day all year for community service. Clearly, there is more to this festival than dhunuchi and sindoor khela.

    How Chennai celebrates Durga Puja

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    Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 6:31:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/how-chennai-celebrates-durga-puja/article29574936.ece

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