Week Long Durga Puja Festivities at Houston Durga Bari

durga bari - in

Photo: Saurabh Sen Gupta

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: It started with the Mahalaya celebration on Sunday, September 28 morning with the full re-rendition of the popular hour-and-a-half musical montage Mahishasur Mardini. It is synonymous with the ushering in of the Debipaksha lunar fortnight and the Durga Puja, when the goddess comes to visit her parents. This program which never loses its charm, brought back the memories of childhood growing up in Kolkata when we used to be woken up at daybreak to the sounds of Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Chandipath resonating through the air waves. Ananda Mela, more so than the previous years brought in huge crowds who got a taste of phuchka to egg rolls to fish chop to mangsho bhaat-ghugni, patishapta and so on. The mouth watering delicacies cooked by the outstanding chefs in the Bengali community helped in raising funds for HDBS. The afternoon concluded with a niftily put together kids fashion show, Pujor shaaje, which ended up being a huge hit and  so was Aampanna with Aparna a la Kofee with Karan where Aparna got to interview celebrity impersonators.

From the next day onward, to coincide with the tithi (Bengali calendar) celebrations, Shashthi to Navami pujas were conducted with tremendous sincerity and dedication by head priest Dr. Bishnupada Goswami. Ashtami puja on Wednesday morning drew an unprecedented number of people considering it was a weekday morning. Sandhi Puja was carried out meticulously with 108 lotuses and 108 lamps. Thursday evening, the cultural program kick off was by Hindustani classical singer Rajyashree Ghosh accompanied by Samir Chatterjee on the tabla. They were successful in captivating the audience with their range of song selections from Aagomani to Tappa to Puratoni, Nazrul Geeti, Dadra, Thumri and Khayal.

From Friday, the whole cycle started all over again with Maha Saptami for folks who cannot take time off during the week and yet do not want to miss the flavor of the 5 day Puja. Chandipath, Balidaan, Pushpanjali, Aarati and Sandhyarati were part of the daily Puja and fruit prasad, lunch and dinner were served every day. Somchhanda Bhattacharya and Trijoy Deb wrapped up the evening with their karaoke medley of popular Bollywood numbers.

Saturday is normally the day when one can never be prepared for, since a large number of out-of-towners drive in just for a day to join in the festivities as Durga Puja is the biggest yearly celebration for the Bengalis. In anticipation, the organizers were proactive and had arranged for satellite parking and shuttle bus services. Volunteers provided tremendous crowd control and let devotees into the temple in batches to offer puja and pushpanjali. The arati performed by the three priests to the ringing of the ghanta, kansor ghanta, beat of the dhaak and the blowing of the shankh was a treat to watch. The temple got filled to capacity four times in a row and the balmy weather made it pleasant for devotees to stand in line for prasad. The stalls in the Kala Bhavan ranged from music, video, book, sari, jewelry, shoes to Metlife, bone marrow donation and Vedanta Society. The mood was festive and while some were busy reuniting with friends who they had lost touch with in the food tent, kids were treated to clowns and magic shows in the kids tent, ladies were busy shopping, volunteers were selling the Puja souvenir Sharod Arghya while the NABC registration booth was getting people  to register for the upcoming North American Bengali Conference to be held in Houston July 10-12, 2015. Kinjal Chatterjee, the evening’s performer with his versatile flexibility in moving from Rabindra Sangeet to Sachin Dev-Rahul Dev Burman, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Manabendra, Bengali, Hindi, Sufi, Punjabi Kalaam and Ghazals was able to keep the audience till 2 in the morning. Everyone just loved him and his incredible voice quality and singing prowess.

Sunday is always a bittersweet day when one thinks that the festivities are coming to an end with the Bisarjan of the Kala Bou in the adjacent lake and the Sindoor Khela of married women signifying the departure of the Goddess to her in laws abode. But with chants of Aashchhe bochhor aabar hobey (next year it shall be repeated), dancing to popular pujo songs and exchange of pranaam and kolakuli the sense of camaraderie uplifts the spirits. Yet again, entire credit goes to the organizers and volunteers with Jayati Banerjee at its lead in carrying out this monumental task very smoothly.