Durga Puja is the most anticipated day of the Bengali calendar and this year the Australian Bengali community have invited ABC TV’s Compass program to join in the celebrations. The festivities run over two weekends in October this year.
It’s colourful, delicious, bursting at the seams with energy – and it’s LOUD!
Like Christmas, the celebrations are based around a story. The creation of the 10-armed Goddess Durga is one of the great Hindu victory stories of good over evil, and Durga Puja is her festival held all over India, West Bengal and Bengali communities worldwide. Right now in Australia, the preparations are in full swing.
At the heart of all Durga Puja celebrations are the towering idols that stand on stage, lovingly handcrafted by artists. Compass follows two families of artists leading up to the celebrations, as they create the giant idols from the Durga story – one using clay and the other using wood. Partho Das recalls his childhood days in India, watching a tiny artist climb up the huge idol to paint Goddess Durga’s face. Today he moulds her many fingers out of soft balsa wood. Ashis works with clay for his idols and tells the story of meeting the love of his life at an early Durga Puja festival here in Australia. He has an army of local ladies dressing his creations in elaborate saris and jewels, ready to be placed on the stage for the festival.
The giant figures of the Goddess Durga and her children transform the stage. Priests perform prayers, and offerings of food and flowers are laid at the idol’s feet. The program talks to some characters who perform on the stage in front of the idols. Sharmilla lovingly teaches her four-year-old granddaughter traditional Indian dancing, and 16-year-old Neer dances like Michael Jackson in full costume and sends the audience into a frenzy.
Don’t miss the Durga Puja episode ‘Bengali Idol’ at 6.30pm on 28 of September on ABC.
Published in The Indian Sun, Sydney