Veer Sanghvi, the editor of Hindustan Times once wrote – “A man in Delhi once asked me -‘What is so special about Durga Puja In Kolkata? It’s just as big as Diwali is here in the North’.
I simply smiled and replied ‘You have no idea’.
Waiting for my late evening flight to Mumbai at the airport, I thought that there probably isn’t any festival in any city in the world that can match Kolkata’s Puja in intensity. You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”
Being born and brought up in the City of Joy, I didn’t spend many Durga Pujas outside my beloved city. This year was different though. Sitting 6000 miles and 5 timezones away from all the madness and frenzy, I knew what I was missing. But sitting and cribbing for long wasn’t an option, so I packed my gear and left to explore the Durga Pujas celebrated at my current city of residence, Sydney.
The Durga idol at the BANSW Puja in Concord.
Performers enact the Durga-Mahishashura legend through dance forms at the Bangladesh Society’s Puja in Wentworthville, NSW
A lady greets the goddess with betel leaf, a custom performed during Vijaya Dashami- at the largest and most popular Durga Puja in Sydney, organized by the Bengali Association of NSW, Concord, NSW
Women at the Bengali Association Puja in Sydney celebrate “Sindur Khela” – a popular custom on the Dashami day.
Women at the BANSW Puja in Concord perform “Dhunuchi Naach”
Dhunuchi dance performer at the Concord Puja
There is a popular saying among Bongs – two Bengalis make an association and four make a Durga Puja. Sydney’s bongs are no exception. There were close to 15 Durga Pujas celebrated all around the city this year. They might have been miniscule in terms of size and grandeur of the Kolkata Pujas, but the fun, frolic, frenzy and the spirit was intact. The bhogs, the sindur khelas, the dhunuchi naaches were the highlights but there was something that surpassed all – the Adda, the Bengali’s very own brainstorming chat sessions that range from Bay Leaves fried in Mustard Oil to the politics of Somalia!