Puja Samithi of Greater Houston (PSGH) Celebrates Durga Puja in Style


Photos: : Sanchali Basu & Kingshuk Choudhury

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: Under the able leadership and guidance of Houston’s favorite priest Dr. Bishnupada Goswami, PSGH celebrated Durga Puja at the ISKCON temple grounds the weekend of Nov 19 to 21. The spiritual ambience and setting of the Puja this year, created a divine atmosphere.

The festivities started on Thursday with decorating the dais and the idol of Maa Durga. Friday’s puja included Chandipath, Maha Sashthi and Saptami Puja. Despite being a weekday, several participated in the afternoon pushpanjali, and enjoyed the Arati and Bhog Prasad lunch. The Sandhyarati was followed by an invocatory Devi Vandana by Salil Banerje and his team. The rest of the entertainment program featured local Bollywood singing talents, briefly interspersed by a mix of Bollywood dance numbers. The evening rain and cold dampened the spirits and attendance somewhat, but Atanu Das from Atlanta, with his mix of Bengali favorites and Hindi medleys, managed to keep the audience engaged with his powerful singing.

Saturday morning was glorious with a slight nip in the air to start off Maha Ashtami. What set this Puja apart was Kumari Puja that ensued a la Belur Math, where 4 young girls ranging from the ages of 5 to 8 were dressed up like the Goddess Durga and worshipped. After the regular pushpanjali and Bhog Prasad, one of the most important rituals of Durga Puja, the Sandhi Puja was peformed. It is done at the exact juncture when Asthami ends and Navami begins, the exact time at which Devi Durga slayed the notorious demons Chando and Munda. An hour of children’s program was followed by extremely talented locals of the likes of Shreya Guhathakurta, with her melodious renditions of Rabindra Sangeet, and Rajneeta Bandopadhyay with her captivating semi classical music. Invited artist from Kolkata, Dr. Kaberi Sen was very impressive with her Odissi dance in honor of Ma Durga and Pallavi. The dynamic duo of Anjan Saha, sitarist and Amit Chatterjee on the tabla, artists from Kolkata, left the audience asking for more. Our very own Pandit Suman Ghosh delighted the classical music lovers with his impeccable offerings of raga Bageshree and others. Such was the tone he set for the evening that the audience was ready to listen to him all night.

Sunday, Mahanavami celebrated Durga’s victory over Mahisasura with a Vedic style homa (fire oblation). Vijaya Dashami always brings about an air of sadness amongst Bengalis when Mother Durga leaves her father’s house and is believed to return to Mount Kailasha, her abode with Shiva. It begins with the joyful Sindoor Khela, where women smear vermillion on the the idol’s forehead and feet, before smearing it on each other and offering sweets. Nabapatrika was then immersed to bid adieu to Ma Durga for a year. The evening’s entertainment was provided by local talented artists.

Most of the meals were catered by Govinda’s, ISKCON’s own restaurant and were delicious.

PSGH will be celebrating Kali Puja on November 3, at the same location. A ticketed entertainment program will feature Parnava Banerjee from Kolkata. Please visit www. houstonpujasamithi.org for further information.