Sundeep Bhutoria

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Probashi Pujas

Navami today. I was scheduled to leave for Canada (Montreal) via Frankfurt early Saptami morning but had to cancel the trip on Sashti evening. Last minute cancellation of trips is becoming quite common on my part. I often change destinations and on the other side take up travelling to foreign destinations on short i.e., few hours' notice. My travel agent and my office is now quite used to my cancellation and re-booking of flights and hotels on short notice.
I normally maintain an hour-by-hour daily log. But somehow, when it comes to travelling, everything goes haywire. To be honest, time constraints, work pressure and hectic social life and other commitments in Kolkata and at times my mood has much to do with this.
I was looking forward to visit the Probashi Pujas of North America. However, I was forced to change my plans. There is no better time to be in Kolkata or Bengal than during the Pujas.
But let me put in few words about the Probashi Pujas which the Indian communities in other countries celebrate. The Pujas have spread across numerous cities globally. Someone told me the other day that where ever there are 10 Bengali families in the world there is a Durga Puja. I don't know if this is really so but it is a fact that not just in the United States or UK, Probashi Pujas are a part an parcel of all major cities in the world.
From the east to the west coast, cities across the United States to London, Stuttgart, Toronto, Ottawa, Brussels, Zurich, Moscow, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai to down under Melbourne and so many other cities, one gets to see the celebration of Pujas in ways traditional and modern. Not just the Bengalis, the Indian diaspora also join in the Puja festivities.
Though the essence of the Puja spirit remains the same, what is unique is that, with the changing times, the Probashi Pujas are undergoing a subtle change often in keeping with the laws of the foreign lands. While the Bharat Sevaashram Sangha of New Jersey observe the Pujas as per the vedic rituals in accordance with the panjika, others like the Bengali Association of Victoria, based out of Melbourne in Australia follows a 2-day abridged weekend version of the Pujas. On the other hand, the Sarbajananin Puja Samity of Brussels in Belgium observes the Pujas for five days starting from shasthi.
In some foreign places even Kumari Puja takes place. Others, like the Bengali Association of Victoria, have evolved ingenious ways of replacing age old rituals like bisarjan by drowning the mirror reflecting the image of the goddess Durga in a river. The main fibreglass idol is kept for the next year.
The Probashi Pujas have been growing in size and stature. The Bengali Association of Greater Dallas – Antorik – was started in 1999 with 30 families and now over 500 families visit this puja.
Some of the Probashi Pujas have started using fibreglass idols instead of the traditional clay and mud idols. Improvisation and the great Indian sense of Jugaad comes into play driven by pragmatism and statutory compliances of the respective land.
Yesterday I offered anjali to Maa Durga on ashtami at the Chaltabagan Puja mandap yesterday (picture). Tomorrow I will be in Delhi to attend Dussehra function.
ess bee

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