Tag Archives: bengali

The Tenth day

Durga Puja at Manjalpur Vadodara

Today is Dussehra or Bijoya Dashami. It is celebrated for the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The festival is also celebrated for the homecoming of the Goddess Durga along with her kids. This day marks the end of the nine day Navratri festivities. The house is cleaned early morning and special ceremonies are performed. We begin the day by taking blessings of our elders and wishing them Shubho Bijoya. We keep home made sweets ready for guests. Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Bengalis. This year Durga Puja of Kolkata was added in the Intangible Cultural heritage by Unesco.

This year was special since the Durga Puja was celebrated with all the rituals as it used to be done before covid. We met many of our friends after 2 years. The statement “We are fine” held a deep meaning for all of us. I have mixed feelings on this day. On one side its the blessings of the elders and on the other side the end of all the fun, festivities and holidays. The idols are immersed in water on this day which means the Goddess and her children leave on this day. It is gloomy to see the empty pandals. These events indicate everything has a beginning and end be it good times or bad times. Just as the artists and sculptors start working for the festival of the new year we should also look forward to creating new things. Just as we immerse the idol, we should also let go of our ego, frustrations, failures, etc and look forward to a new day with positivity. It may sound difficult and philosophical but if implemented, can make a huge difference. Last two years have helped us realize the importance of healthy relations and good habits. I hope this Dussehra, we are able to focus on improving our lives. Happy Bijoya Dashami.

Foodie at Festival

Goddess Saraswati

We celebrated Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja on 5th Feb 2022. This festival is very special for bengalis because it is also a celebration of learning as Goddess Saraswati is also called the Goddess of learning. This is the only day when we dont study but worship our books. Since learning is an integral part of my profession, so my excitement for this festival is same even today as it used to be when I was a kid.

Prasad

We get up early, take bath and dress up in yellow. We then have a small ceremony at home and then we go to the community hall where the celebration is organized at a larger scale. We used to apply leave in school for this festival as it used to be a working day. One of my fondest memories of this festival is the Prasad(offering). As part of prasad we have a meal which comprises of Khichadi, mixed veg curry, a fry and sweet. After the offering is made to the Goddess, it is served to the people. The community hall used to have a separate space for meals. We used to stand in line. It used to be fun seeing people dressed in different shades of yellow. The wait in queue had its own charm. We would discuss about everything, different kind of yellows, news, movies and ofcourse the upcoming exams. Everytime a known elder passed us, there would be one common question “Poda shona kamon cholche” (how are your studies going on). We used to answer this question a number of times on this day. Incase if you are in grade 9 or above, the question would shift to your preferred college and course. The khichadi (Rice and lentils cooked togather) used to be so hot that one could feel the steam coming out of it. Some of us would even compare the yellow of khichadi with the yellow of our dresses. We would sit with our friends and eat while the discussions would still continue.

This year the meals had to be taken home because of covid protocols. We wished each other while maintaining social distancing. I still hope, those days would come back when we would again have similar community festivals. May Goddess Saraswati bless everyone with the knowledge and health.

Wait for Shiuli

Durga Puja is a special time for a Bengali. We start planning weeks before the festival. My father had planted a shiuli(night jasmine) flower tree in our house. This flower blossoms during Pujo. It has amazing fragrance which reminds one of festivals. There are songs and poems dedicated to this flower.

This year I was at home after a long time. Everyday from the month of July, the first thing I did after getting up is to go and see the tree. There were no flowers even though the tree was watered regularly. I used to ask my mother if the tree needs any manure. My mother’s response was “Patience, the season is yet to come”. This continued till September. I was excited the day I saw the first few flowers. It meant Pujo is coming. I ran indoors and informed, shiuli flowers have come. This just reminds me, everything has a specific time whether its studies, opportunities or vaccine. One needs to be patient and things will happen. We have a tendency of rushing towards things inspite of being aware of haste causing failures. Often in this process we ignore many things. The seasonal flowers remind us to wait for the right time.

The years 2020 and 2021 taught us the important lesson of being patient. Life is precious. We need to spend time with our near and dear ones instead of running behind worldly things. The shiuli flowers only blossom during season. Let us sit back and enjoy the moment.

April-2021 The Month of New Years

First quarter of the year has passed. There are a number of New Years in April in India. They are based on the Hindu Calendar. We visit each other, offer respect to elders by touching their feet and wish everyone. Its the time to eat home made sweets and wear new clothes. There are special songs dedicated to these days. In some places fairs are held on these days.

The schools close by mid April for summer vacation so these new years also mark the beginning of holidays. It is the time to grow beyond studies and be carefree for kids. As children of a cosmopolitan city, it used to be a month long celebration for us since everyday one or the other person had New Year. Personally I feel these traditional New Years give us an opportunity to rekindle our lives. It is common to lose motivation on the resolutions of 1st January. One can take this time to assess ones progress and motivation, if needed, can also modify the resolution. They give us an opportunity to assess the first quarter of the year and decide whether we want to spend the rest of the year in the same way or make changes. As the covid counts are rising again, it is time to assess our activities and be careful again, so that we can control the counts and beat the pandemic. Wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.

Guided by the Poet

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

7th May is Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday. He is engraved in every aspect of a Bengali’s life. He is the first Indian Nobel Laureate. His works are quoted in appreciations, motivations, lectures and scolding in our upbringing. A celebration is not complete unless his name is taken. My mother was named after one of his books and even my name is synonymous to one of his books.

Let me share one story where he guided me. When I started working, I was posted in Mumbai with a few of my friends. Initially we explored all the famous landmarks of the city in group since we all were new to the city. Then came the phase where we all started discovering our own interests, some delved into studies, some sports, some into work and so on. It was at that time, I felt there was more to Mumbai than just landmarks. My roommates often visited the famous fashion street clothes market. On one such visit, I happened to look in the opposite direction while entering the market and saw rows of book store. We decided to explore the book market and then go to Fashion street. The book market was simply amazing. There were books on every topic from classics to mysteries to self help to competitive exams. I had been meaning to read Tagore’s works particularly the novels but never found time during college. I was unable to find them in local libraries also. My eyes just fell off my head when I saw his works in one of the shops. That day I did not buy any clothes although we went to Fashion street, still my bag was the heaviest because it had books. I ended up reading all the books in one month and wanted to go to the book market again. This time no one was available to accompany me, so I went alone singing the famous song by Tagore “Jodi tor daak shune keu na aashe” (If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone). That experience gave me the motivation to explore new cities on my own. I still have some of those books at home.

My Treasured Collection

This was one way where Tagore helped me grow. As we grow, we find our interests differ from others, many of us even find it difficult to fit into a particular group. This may seem strange but remember everyone is unique. Appreciate your individuality. I take this opportunity to thank Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore for motivating us.

New Year with New Challenges

Today, 14th april’2020 is Poila Boishakh, the first day of Bengali new year. As kids, we used to get up early, take bath, offer our prayers, pay respect to the elders and hug our friends and youngsters. My mother used to stitch clothes for us for new year. Special dishes would be prepared. There was an image of Goddess Durga in our house. She is dressed up as a villager in it. It always reminded me, God is within us and we can always make ourselves better.

Poila Boishakh used to be just after the final exams of the academic session. So we used to start our summer vacations with new year celebration. This year is different. It is a New Year with New Challenges. The world is going through an extremely challenging phase. The thought of celebrating new year in this situation may seem strange. New Year is the time to identify changes that need to be made to improve oneself. The past year reminds us that time and tide wait for none. This Poila Boishakh, let us resolve to maintain social distancing, let us ensure that we will continue to grow even while enclosed in our houses, let us resolve to believe good times will return. This has created free time for many of us. There are people cribbing about how to spend this time. Internet is brimming with online classes be it drawing, music, dance or new language. There are many book clubs. Most of the libraries have their apps from which readers can read online. This time has brought out the creativity of many people. Some of my friends have started their YouTube channels. As we continue with the shutdown, life without social life, may seem boring and monotonous but we should trust the God within ourselves and persist. Let us ensure, when this phase is over and life is back to normal, we will all be better human beings. Shubho Noboborsho (Happy New Year) to everyone.

Navaratri Gifts

Navaratri is a special time when the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. I got posted out of my hometown when I started working. I requested my mother to give me any spare kitchen items. She gave me six plates and bowls out of which none of the two plates or bowls were same. I asked her, how she got this unique set. She said those are my Navaratri gifts. Small girls (Kumari) are worshipped during Navaratri as Goddess. This is called Kumari puja. As part of this ceremony, they are invited, a small dot with vermilion is placed on their forehead. They are then offered food cooked specially for this occasion. After this they are gifted with plates, bowls and sometimes toys. As kids we used to have invitation from numerous houses in our neighborhood. If we were unable to make it, they would send the gift to our house. It used to be fun to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear new clothes and go for the ceremony. The festivities would turn even bigger from the 7 day (Saptami), when we used to visit the Bengali community. There we would have a huge idol of Goddess Durga along with her four kids. We would offer our prayers and meet up with everyone. Although these festivities are only for few days but we used to start preparing three months before.

This year I decided to offer gifts to Goddess through Kumari puja. Luckily all the Kumaris I knew were fond of books which happens to be my hobby as well, so I gifted them classics. All the kids were happy. We also visited the Durga Puja organized by Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. These festivities always take me back to my carefree school days. On the tenth day we have Dashami when the idols are immersed in water. We take blessings of our elders and wish everyone “Happy Dussehra”.

Bijoya Sammilani

The festival of Dussehra holds huge significance in our lives. It is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. For Bengalis it is the time to meet and greet everyone. We wish everyone Shubho Bijoya (Auspicious Victory). This was the time we used to visit everyone’s house. I still remember my mother making all the planning for a Bijoya dinner. Then it was just food and fun for us but today I feel it was a wonderful way to familiarize us with our culture. It was because of this effort of our parents during Durga Puja, Bijoya Dashami, etc, we were able to imbibe the cultures of both our native place and our residential place. This has played an important part in helping us adapt to any place within or outside our country.

The tasty Luchis

Chicken Curry

This year a few of my Bengali colleagues decided to hold a Bijoya Sammilani (Bijoya meet), which took me back to my school days. But they did it with a twist. All the guys decided to release the females from cooking for the weekend. They had elaborate menu for lunch and dinner for both days. They even had snacks. The fun part was to see them cooking. All the resources were duly calculated and brought. During cooking there was an elaborate discussion on everything. It was surprising as well as entertaining to see software professionals arguing on ways of cutting onions and tomatoes instead of computers. I must say they all did an extraordinary job, even I got to learn a few things about cooking from them. Since the guys took the responsibility of cooking we took the responsibility of entertaining. This meant song performances, poetry recitations, dance and drama. We came to know about the artistic side of everyone. It was like meeting everyone again. At the end of it I felt, this is the essence of festival. We come togather, forget our day-to-day issues and create something to make a time memorable. As long as people with this spirit are there, the culture would stay alive no matter where we are. I thank my colleagues for this memorable time and wish everyone ‘Shubho Bijoya’.

Pujo in USA

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga

The biggest festival that a bengali looks forward to, for the entire year, the Durga Puja 2016 is going on. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. This is the time when the air smells of festivity. This year I had the opportunity of visiting the Durga Puja at Pittsburgh, USA in Hindu Jain Temple. Once inside the hall, I felt as if I was in India. The rituals, the decorations, the people and of course the food, all made it a lively place to be. Durga Puja is the time when people get together and discuss on all topics ranging from sports to food. Here also it was so, the hot topic of discussion was Pittsburgh Steelers. Simply proves no matter where they are, bengalis just love sports.

The Hindu Jain Temple

The Hindu Jain Temple

It was raining yesterday night and so the weather was cold from the morning. Thankfully it didn’t rain after morning. Once I reached the temple, the serenity of the atmosphere filled me with happiness. I offered my prayers with flowers. The most admirable thing was, the priest translated the meaning of the prayers to the people in English, thus explaining the prayers to everyone. After the puja we had the delicious meal(Puja Bhog) which comprised of Khichadi, fries, veggies and sweets. Also there was a small exhibition of clothes, accessories and jewelry. Cultural programs were held afterwards. The children were playing around dressed in traditional attire. It reminded me of my school days. I thank the Bengali Association of Pittsburgh(http://bengali-pitt.org/bap/) for keeping the culture alive so far from home. Happy Durga Puja to Everyone. May Goddess Durga bless everyone with happiness and fulfill all their wishes.