Devipaksha Started with Houston’s 1st Durga Puja at Vedanta Society

By Sanchali Basu

With the increasing number of Bengalis in the greater Houston area, more Durga pujas are being held to accommodate the desire of all Bengalis to participate in their biggest festival of the year. Durga Puja, however, is not limited to a celebration by the Bengalis, but is a celebration by all Hindus revering and paying homage to the Hindu goddess, Durga. The festival epitomises the victory of good over evil, where she wins her battle against the shape-shifting asura, Mahishasura. It is also in part a harvest festival celebrating the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.

Vedanta Society of Greater Houston (VSGH) celebrates Durga Puja a week ahead of the actual Puja every year, to avoid conflict with other Pujas, and the 5-day Puja is condensed into a half day puja. It was a sultry day to invoke Ma Durga on the punya tithi of Mahalaya to the VSGH grounds on Saturday, September 24, after a hiatus of 2 years when the Puja could not be held outdoors on a large scale due to the COVID pandemic. This year the society provided a link for free registration to get a better idea of the number of attendees and there was a cutoff after 700 registrants.

Nabapatrika (Kalabau), and the idol of Mother Durga were carried to the nicely decorated pandal outdoors to the auspicious beat of the Dhak (Bengal drum) and the blowing of the shankh (conch shell), early in the morning, creating a divine atmosphere. Mother Durga and kalabau were decorated in festive splendor and Mother was ready to welcome and bless all her devotees.

As is the tradition every year, Swami Kripamayananda, head of the Toronto Vedanta Society assisted by Buddhadeb, conducted the puja, his 9th year. Dr. Amrit Achari did the Chandipath chanting. The puja was performed with great austerity and devotion.

The melodious devotional songs sung by the VSGH choir, led by Rupa Ghosh, made the environment reverberate with divinity. Local Guru, disciple of Sangeet martand Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Suman Ghosh was gracious enough to lend his voice with his team, adding to the divinity of the atmosphere. The puja ended with the beautiful arati performed with the chandelier lamp to the beat of the dhak, and pushpanjali, the offering of flowers, by devotees.

Fruit & lunch prasad were served in the adjacent tent to all attendees.

The puja was very well attended, and all attendees enjoyed the pious, spiritual ambience of the puja festivities. Although, the temperature during the lunch prasad distribution was quite high, it did not deter the devotees from queuing up in long lines to partake the blessed prasad – approximately 600 plates of prasad were served – and all left with smiles on their faces.

Photos by Jiten Patel