Rain or Shine! Houston’s Bengalis Celebrate Durga Puja with Enthusiasm
By Ruchi Mukherjee
Despite the heavy rains, devotees and Durga Puja enthusiasts gathered at the Durgabari of Houston to celebrate this popular festival of India. Religion teaches mankind about humanity and love. In India every festival is an opportunity to spread love and happiness among all. Durga Puja is also popularly known as the autumnal festival. This festival is celebrated according to the dates of the traditional Hindu calendar, roughly between September and October.
“It is our own 6-acre temple facility with a temple, auditorium, kala bhavan, priest quarters, children’s playground, sports fields and plenty of space. Luckily, by Maa Durga’s grace, City of Houston decided to build a park and lake and now, the temple boasts of a picturesque location right on the lake. Houston Puja started in 1975 but ever since Durgabari came into existence in 1999, the Puja has gone to a different level,” shares an active Durgabari Community leader Partha S. Chatterjee.
Over the past few centuries this festival has evolved. Today this festival is not only about religion and customs. Durga Puja is also known as a celebration of art, culture and food, one of the largest outdoor festivals in India. “It is wonderful to keep these traditions alive while we are so far away from India,” says Runsi Sen.
Media and Communication in-charge Sanchali Basu took LCA Houston on a tour of the festivities happening at the Durgabari. “There is something for everyone here during the four days of Puja celebration. Dance, drama, live performances, activities for children, a fashion bazaar, scrumptious bengali food and daily prayers,” she explained. “It is amazing to see the participation of people from various communities enjoying this auspicious festival,” says Basu.
During Durga Puja in India, apart from celebrating the triumph of good over evil, the art of creating idols and innovative themed pandals has become a key emphasis of the festival. Every year many artisans come up with thousands of new ideas relating to the themes in which the Puja pandals are decorated.
The four days of Durga Puja celebrations consists of ritualistic dance prayers that are organized at the Durgabari of Houston. These prayers are known as aartis. During aarti the traditional drummers play the huge drums and plays a significant part of Durga Puja. Bengalis also pay great emphasis on food. During these celebrations devotees make large pots of delicious food such as rice pilaf (pulao), luchi, different kinds of vegetables, rice pudding and certainly one cannot miss the fish cutlets.
Thousands of Bengalis and individuals of our diverse community gather to celebrate these age-old traditions and festivals that connect people from various parts of the world and bring them closer. Durga Puja is one such occasion when social barriers break and people come together on one platform to enjoy themselves to their heart’s fulfillment.