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Maria Mathew -- Bengalee Association Durga Pooja

Report for the Melton Foundation's Fellow Training Program

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Maria Mathew -- Bengalee Association Durga Pooja

  1. 1. The Bengalee Association’s Durga Pooja Maria Mathew
  2. 2. The Durga Pooja is the Hindu festival to celebrate the goddess Durga and her victory over the evil buffalo demon, Mahishasura. It is the biggest festival of the year for Bengali Hindus (Bengal is a north Indian state) in particular, though it is celebrated throughout our country. So when I picked the Pujo for the task, it felt appropriate to attend the one hosted by the Bengali Association of Bangalore (which is southern India).
  3. 3. Location : The Pooja was held is a huge empty ground where they had set up tents for the stalls and makeshift auditoriums. On entering … • Parking area filled with vehicles. Terrible traffic jam leading to the gates of the field. •HUGE crowd. (I didn’t realize that so many people would want to celebrate a festival in a huge crowded place instead of at home with their family, as that is what I am used to.) •Indian carnival atmosphere more than a religion ceremony’s. (I later found out that this was because the Pooja ceremony was over in the morning itself and this was just the celebration that followed.)
  4. 4. • Two large tents that served as makeshift auditoriums. One housed the goddess Durga’s idol and had a stage for performances. The other just had a stage for even more performances. • Two entire sides of the ground were lined with around 50 food stalls. • Other stalls selling handicrafts and trinkets, sarees and cheap plastic toys • The place wasn’t very clean - a lot of dirty plastic chairs strewn around, disposable items like plates just thrown around.
  5. 5. Smells : • The entire place smelt of food. There were so many food smells all mixed up and it made me feel very very hungry the moment I entered. • It also smelt very strongly of smoke because a lot of people were cooking the food with huge fire-y not modern stoves.
  6. 6. Tastes and food : • A lot of traditional food was being cooked right there and served, with a delicious selection of meats and sweets and rotis but nothing too different from the food we get around here. • There were also a lot of fast food stalls like Krispy Crème and Pizza Hut. • Quite a few pickle stalls with exotic varieties (I didn’t go experiment, though I would’ve liked to, because they were being sold only in huge bottles). • Many ice gola (crushed ice dipped in flavoured syrup) stalls. Clearly a Bengali favorite. (I have never seen so many ice gola stalls all at the same place).
  7. 7. Sounds : • Most people were conversing in English itself or in Hindi. Nobody was really talking in Bengali. • The announcements made by the help desk, however, were all in Bengali with no English or Hindi versions of it. • An announcement about a lost wallet was made in Bengali too. (I found this a bit unfair as a large percentage of the people attending were definitely not Bengali speaking. I went along with my Bengali friend’s family and that is how I knew what they were talking about.) • All the music and performances took place in Bengali. There was everything from tradition Bengali folk music to Bengali rock fusion!
  8. 8. The People : • There were a lot of Bengali people present obviously but there was also a very huge number of south Indians. •The Bengalis were all dressed up for the occasion in both traditional clothes and dresses. Most of the women wore sarees and some were tied in non traditional ways and looked lovely. • The south Indians on the other hand were very casually dressed and appeared to not care about anything except eating the delicious food! • Despite the place being really dirty, the people appeared to be very polished and classy. It was quite amusing to watch people with really expensive high heels tottering through the mud and slush on the field.
  9. 9. • Despite there being chairs to sit on, most people preferred to stand up and eat and then quickly move to the next food stall and eat some more. Most of the chair occupants were people who finished eating and wanted to relax and talk. • Everyone moved at a slow pace and during the entire evening, I saw only one man striding somewhere purposefully. • Though the place was quite crowded, people avoiding brushing against each other as much as possible and were very well mannered. (This is a bit rare in crowds in India.) • In the tent with the idol of the goddess Durga, there were a few people who stood facing the idol with their eyes closed and praying reverently despite the din and confusion around them.
  10. 10. • People had a strong sense of safety. Not many people were holding onto their children. Most of them were running around and playing and not being too closely watched by their parents. (I have NEVER seen parents do that anywhere else in a crowded place and I was quite shocked.) •Some really dignified ladies suddenly took off their heels and climbed onto plastic chairs to view the performances better. It was quite funny. Other : • Tradional Bengali smoke dance - a girl danced in the centre of the stage holding a clay torch filled with burning coal while drummers moved at the sides, thumping out the rhythm for her dance. (After a while, though, the tent became filled with smoke and my eyes started to burn and I had to leave.)
  11. 11. The Idol of the goddess Durga
  12. 12. The food … … and the stalls.
  13. 13. The trinkets sold at some of the stalls… … and a friendly stall owner.
  14. 14. The Smoke Dance