5 Countries that Celebrate Durga Puja Grandly
Separated by Oceans & Seas But United by Durga Puja
The Indian mythology states that to defeat evil Ravan, Lord Ram invoked Goddess Durga to pursue her blessings. Today, this untimely worship in autumn has become the most widespread community festival globally. The festival has crossed the oceans to all those continents wherever we Indians have made our presence felt. With the gaining popularity, the festival is been celebrated at more than 150 places across 36 countries beside India and Bangladesh, in all six continents (report by Hindustan Times). In the America, Europe and Africa, Durga Puja was initiated back nearly half a century ago, whereas the Malaysian Bengalee Association started in 1952. Around 50 percent of pujas in America & Europe are conducted in the US and UK (London) alone wherein the trend of festival started in early 1970 & 1960 respectively.
Durga Puja celebration in foreigner countries may not be as amaze-ball as in Indian states but they are not less value to the expatriate Indians, especially Bengalis who leave no stone unturned to bridge the gap of hundreds & thousands of miles of their homeland yearly once. Infact, it is a great way to gain a glimpse of the Bengali Hindu Diaspora residing in different parts of the globe, where the pujas are conducted in distinct manner & duration. During this festival, Bengali Hindus becomes a single family merged by their shared interest in traditional Bengali culture, attire and cuisine. There are also many expatriates who not only come to these public celebrations to enjoy Durga puja with Indian food and cultural performances but also contribute financially & otherwise. Indeed, Durga Puja in overseas has turned from religious function to biggest socio-cultural fest where people from all community come together to enjoy and exhibit their talents in art & culture.
The Celebration Beyond India
Here are some of the oversea countries where Durga Puja is celebrated with great joy:
In Nepal, Durga Puja also called ‘Dashain’ is celebrated as a ten day festival. Predominately being a Hindu nation, the country observes the same date as of India and follows the similar pattern for the celebration. The king of Nepal plays a vital role during this grand ten days festival, especially from the seventh day of the pujas (Saptami). Despite of the monarchy been overthrown in Nepal, the royal family has an important cultural role in the nation. Dashin not only witnesses religious observance by the Nepali but they also visit their families and have a joyous time. Banks, government offices, schools & colleges remain closed and buses do not ply during festive days.
The country that is the home for the second-largest group of Hindu Bengalis worldwide celebrates Durga Puja in the most flourishing manner. The festival commemorates in almost every city/district of the Bangladesh despite the majority religion being Islam. Totally, 30,077 permanent and temporary pandals were developed across the country (2017) in which 231 alone was crafted in the capital Dhaka. Temples are decorated with the statue of the goddess, where worshippers go and pray to acquire blessings for peace and prosperity.
In Dhaka, little girls (virgin: token of purity) are placed in the local temples wherein residents offer prayer to them during puja considering them as a symbolic representation of Goddess Durga. The five days fest end on Bijoya Dashami (concluding day) with the immersion of idols in the rivers and sea and is also a declared government holiday. Being a grand festival, it is important to ensure peace and safety of the devotees, hence they deploy all the possible security measures such as CCTV, dog, patrolling, bomb disposal squads and metal detector to maintain law & order in and around temples & puja pandals. However, pujo pavilions are divided based on the threat perception and security resources are distributed respectively.
Durga Puja was initiated in 1974 by 12 families in New South Wales but currently the festival is saluted in all the major cities of Australia. Thousands of Indian immigrants gather on Maha Sasthi (the first day of the Puja) to render a warm welcome to Goddess Durga and her four children wherein the clay idols of the Goddess and her divine family are sculpted & painted and established inside the colorful sites adorned with spring flowers and other embellishments. The women drape dazzling saris while the men wear kurta & dhoti, to keep them with the festive tradition. Various games, painting competitions and other activities are arranged for kids whereas musical shows consisting of traditional Rabindra Sangeet and modern fusion music is delivered by the adults during this five days celebration, while performance by great artists can also be witnessed.
In Australia, puja is a community affair where everybody enthusiastically takes part in the process, from male looking after the management to female preparing the sweets and youngsters cutting the fruits for offering. Throughout the festive week, Indians (especially Bengalis) gather at the puja pandals after their work.
Durga Puja is not an unknown festivity in the US where there is a good number of Indian especially Bengalis. The trend of organizing the five-day festival began in the early 1970s and by now, puja is celebrated in all 50 states of the country. There are several associations across the country that organizes five-day festival with full dedication and energy. Before, the puja was generally celebrated over weekend due to work compulsions of the populace. But now the story has changed, people take leave and devote them to the festival and prepare for cultural functions including dramas, songs, and art competition over several weeks.
Here Durga puja is memorialized by the residing Indian community with great fervor. Nearly half of the puja in conducted in London where several organizers import Goddess Durga idols and offer puja in the most authenticated Bengali manner. The associations also conduct activities for all age groups in order to keep them engage and busy. Depending on the financial capability of the puja committees, the organizers invite Bengali artistes for performing during the puja. Durga Puja magazines are integral part of the few of the association in the country. On Bijoya Dashami, the Durga idols are immersed in local water bodies. Recently, the immersion of the Durga idol has been permitted in the Thames river for the celebration held in London.
Apart from these countries, Durga Puja is also celebrated across Germany, Gulf Countries, Malaysia, Norway, Brazil, Japan, China to name a few. While the emotions, feeling, and enthusiasm remain the same, the various ways in which Durga Puja is celebrated globally showcase unity in diversity among Indian.
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