Durga Bari Celebrates “Unity Through Respect” at Durga Puja


Photos: Saurabh Sen Gupta

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: Autumn is the season when every Bengali’s heart goes pitter patter in anticipation of the upcoming Durga Puja festivities, the biggest celebration of the year when Bengalis behave like Christians behave during Christmas. The spirit of camaraderie, brotherhood and friendly love is steeped in the air and every Bengali tries his best in whatever way possible to participate in these 5 days of activities. Although celebrated over 5 days back home in Bengal, in the US it is mostly curtailed to a weekend event in most cities.


Luckily, Houstonians are spoilt with the Durgabari being around for many, and get to celebrate the Durga Puja in the traditional way over 5 days. In the days when we did not have the Durgabari, Durga Puja was held at the Gandhi Community Center with a few hundred people attending over a weekend. We have come a long way since then and now under the leadership of priest Dr. Bishnupada Goswami, Durga Puja is held on a grand scale at the Durga Bari every year.


This year the celebrations happened to coincide with the Bengali calendar tithi and festivities began on Sunday, October 6 with Mahalaya (invocation of the goddess), Anandamela (fund-raising for the temple with food stalls selling Bengali culinary delicacies and concert by Sayak Bandopadhyay). Sashthi was celebrated on Thursday, October 10 with Amantran and Adhibas and the evening entertainment was provided by an invited artiste from Kolkata, Jayati Chakrabarti who had a repertoire of Rabindra Sangeet, Atulprasad, Rajanikanto and modern songs to please the audience.

On October 11, 12 and 13, Saptami, Ashtami and Navami respectively were celebrated with Chandipath in the morning, Puja, Pushpanjali, Arati and Bhog lunch, and Sandhyarati in the evening. Each day had its added attraction of evening cultural program, Anupam Roy being the featured artiste from Kolkata on Friday. He kept the younger generation going with his genre of Bengali modern rock songs.

On Saturday, Bollywood singer Jasraj Joshi of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa fame brought the house down with his renditions of popular Bollywood numbers from yesteryear to the present. He delivered Bengali Rabindra Sangeet to sufi medleys to the latest chart busters and came off the stage to the delight of the screaming, dancing audience, mingled with them and lapped up every bit of the adulation and fan-frenzy. He was very ably supported by the rest of the Lambada band, the extremely talented Reshma (vocals), Rana (vocals, tabla), Manoj Pandya (guitar, only Indian alumnus of the Berkley College of music), and  Mahesh Nimbalkar (drums/percussions).

On Sunday, October 13, Bijoya Dashami day is always bittersweet in the sense that there is sadness that the five days of celebrations are coming to an end and the Goddess will be immersed with the Naba Patrika and Bisarjan, but is also accompanied by Sindoor Khela (married women anointing one another with vermilion signifying the departure of the goddess to her in-laws’ abode) and distribution of sweets.

This year the number of registrants at the Puja outnumbered all the previous years and on Saturday there were over 2,000 people on the Durgabari grounds. The entire atmosphere was reminiscent of a Puja mandap in Bengal with beautiful Bengali women in their stunning sarees, handsome men in their crisp kurtas and dhotis, sari, jewelry, book stalls, the blowing of conch shells (shankha) and the rhythmic beats of the dhaak.

Thanks to the able leadership of Soovo Sen, Puja committee chair, the Bayou city was able to live up to this year’s theme “Unity through respect”. Rajiv Saha with his excellent disc jockeying kept the crowd informed, entertained with his great selection of songs and also got everyone to dance on several occasions. Most noteworthy, one could not miss the efficient use of scanning technology to scan registrants’ badges at the food lines and the delectable lip smacking food served at every meal.