BAGA kids and adults celebrate Saraswati Puja
(Left) BAGA's Saraswati Puja 2018. (Photo: B. Kumar)
While nature was showering rain around Atlanta on Saturday, January 27, 2018, members of Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) were offering flowers of devotion and love to Ma Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge, at Duluth High School in Duluth, Georgia. The all-day event was organized to celebrate Basant Panchmi, the fifth day of Spring, a day of festivity celebrated in different parts of India as a new beginning. On this day especially, Ma Saraswati is worshipped, and blessings are invoked for children who are initiated into writing and learning.
The new setting for Ma Saraswati, bestower of knowledge, music, and art. (Photo: Madhumita Chakraborty)
A beautiful setting was made for Ma Saraswati, the bestower of knowledge, music, and art. Dressed in white for purity, she stood on the lotus, which, untouched by the muddy waters in which it grows, symbolizes the need to remain untouched by negative influences which may surround us. Her right hand was in a gesture of blessing, and she held her veena in her left hand. On her left were a small ink bottle and a book; on her right was the hamsa or swan (her vehicle representing beauty and also discernment, since the swan is said to be able to separate milk from water with its beak, symbolizing the need for individuals to always discern between right and wrong). A beautiful new backdrop made for the 2018 celebration represented a music notebook and, together with a huge red inkpot with feather pen, created an ambience befitting Ma Saraswati—and also reflected the dedication of the decoration committee to continuing their culture through art.
Hate khori. (Photo: Kamalaksha Das)
The celebrations began with prathna (prayers), kids’ art competition, and pushpanjali (offering of flowers) followed by hate khori. Hate khori is a very auspicious ceremony when children 3 - 4 years old are initiated into education. The ritual was done by the priest holding their hands and helping them to write ‘Om,’ or some letters of the alphabet in English or Bengali (‘Ka, Kha, Ga’), usually on a small slate with chalk. Mahaprasad, or lunch, followed. Vendors’ tables of clothing, jewelry, and art created a festive mood.
In the afternoon a cultural program was held in the auditorium, headed and coordinated by BAGA Vice President and cultural coordinator Mrs. Mohua Maity. Devotional songs were beautifully rendered by a group of very talented children, and an extremely talented fusion band of the BAGA Youth Committee followed. A “Go as You Like” kids’ talent show showcased the versatile talents of children of all ages. The next segment was a spectacular Bihu dance by young girls and wonderful dance number by little boys set to the popular patriotic song of yesteryear, “Nanha munna rahi hoon.”
Dancing in front of the deity. (Photo: Geeta Mehrotra)
The vocal musical segment, “Hridoy Basanto,” was a collage of songs presented by some very talented singers of Atlanta starting with Saraswati vandana, Tagore songs, and modern songs welcoming the beautiful and colorful season of Spring and concluding with a few patriotic songs celebrating India’s 69th Republic Day. Last but not least, BAGA’s little performers enthralled the audience by their performances in front of Ma Saraswati’s deity and got her blessings. From poetry recitation, singing India’s national anthem, to Indian dancing, many forms of art were presented, giving the young children an opportunity to showcase their talent and build self-confidence while continuing their culture.
Lovely lunch included traditional khichuri, labra, and nolen gurer payesh, and the delectable dinner had aloo posto, rui maacher jhol, roshogolla, and more. Congratulations to Mr. Ayan Banerjee and his Executive Committee and organizing team of Saraswati Puja who put in time, talent, and effort to continue their Bengali culture that has given birth to a poet like Rabindranath Tagore, saint like Swami Vivekananda, and a hero like Subash Chandra Bose.Decoration Team photos (Photos courtesy of Subalita Baruah):
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