Bengalis Celebrate Durga Puja with Customary Style
In keeping with the tradition of the last twenty-seven years, BAGA (Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta) celebrated Durga Puja, the most important and popular festival for Bengalis, on October 7th, 8th and 9th at Shamrock Middle School in Decatur. Despite the rainy weather on two out of those three days, hundreds of people participated in this auspicious occasion to celebrate the victory of good over evil (Ma Durga destroying Mahisasur, the demon). This tradition, which started in 1979 with just a few Bengalis getting together in someone's garage, now attracts a large number of people not only from this state but also from neighboring states like Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, etc. And this year was no exception. About eight hundred participants came to take part in this year's puja celebrations. Talented Atlantans spent hours to decorate the idols and the stage, earning a lot of appreciation from all those who attended. As soon as we entered the school Friday evening, we found a large number of people visiting the stalls put up by local businesses. The rainy weather outside could dampen the spirits of neither the sellers nor the buyers. There were stalls selling salwar suits, saris, dhoti-kurtas, ornaments, CD-DVD-VCD-cassettes, and other things. Various flyers, posters and banners announced upcoming desi programs and there were also ads from satellite dish companies and other businesses. We also found BAGA's yearly literary publication, Paratichi (The West). Browsing through it, we found a letter wishing success for the puja from Mr. Ronen Sen, the Indian Ambassador to the United States. On the contents page, there were familiar Indian names from the fields of literature, movies and sports. There were contributions from local talents too. The youngest contributor, it was interesting to see, is only five years old, and there was also an article by a ninety-eight-year-old retired scientist! Dinner was served on Friday after the first part of the puja. It was followed by the first part of a multi-part cultural program. There were songs and dances, and a play presented by local talents based on a story written by a famous Bengali writer.
Although people went home quite late that night, the next morning they all gathered again early in the morning to take part in the puja for that day. There were dhaks and dhols, and dances during the aratis. It was enough to bring back a lot of memories from back home. After lunch, in another segment of the cultural program, the three main attractions for the afternoon were performances by a local Bengali band, a group performance by local children, and a variety program by local talents depicting the changes and evolutions of Bengali culture since India's independence. After the evening aratis and dinner, a guest artist from Kolkata, Ms. Somdatta Basu, performed Bengali songs ? old and new ? and the audience was enthralled with her rendition. The last part of the puja was performed on Sunday. It was followed by "sindur-khela" where married women took part in wishing one another a long and happy married life. The festivities concluded with the final segment of the cultural program when a famous Bengali group from Kolkata, Chandrabindoo, performed. Groups of people, young and old alike, danced on the floor to their tunes. All in all, this was a memorable puja and a huge success for BAGA.
Chandrabindoo Ups The Tempo At Durga Puja Celebrations
Anecdotal evidence points to Bengalis as people for whom culture is serious business. Many still savor?and crave?for what some label as "purist" music that came out during the period of "Bengali Modern songs." This was a time when Hemanta Mukherjee (better known to Hindi music listeners as Hemant Kumar), Shyamal Mitra, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Sandhya Mukherjee, Arati Mukherjee and Geeta Dutt ruled the Bengal's musical world. And then for a segment of Bengalis came the culture shock of the "Bangla Band" ? Bengali band music ? in the late seventies.
In 1977, the genius of Gautam Chattopadhyay put together a group named Moheener Ghoraguli (Moheen's Horses) to perform music of "alternative style." Moheener Ghoraguli, recognized as the first Bangla Band, was perhaps much ahead of its time and gradually faded away, albeit prematurely. Chattopadhyay died a few years ago.
Fast forward to the mid-nineties. Bangla Band is today mainstream. Last year, courtesy of Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) (www.baga.net), popular Bangla Band, Bhoomi, performed during the Durga Puja celebrations. This year again, it was time for a Bangla Band at the Durga Puja celebrations. One of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands in the genre, Chandrabindoo, (www.chandrabindoo.com/) performed at Shamrock Middle School on October 9, the final day of the celebrations.
With several topselling albums to their credit, Chandrabindoo had the audience of more than 800 on their feet from the word go. The entire gymnasium transformed into one big dance floor. The tempo never ceased as they played hits such as Duniya Dot Com, Juju, Twaker Jatno Nin, Hoolabila and Amra Bangali Jati. They, however, came the audience time to breath with softer numbers such as Neel and Ghumiye Porho Na (which was presented as a tribute to Moheener Ghoraguli).
Throughout the show, Chandrabindoo played and considered themselves as one tight band, and not a set of talented individuals. The eight-member unit was versatile and easily glided through different musical styles and genres, be it rock, folk, Latin, techno or traditional. The writer, who was the sound engineer for the show, felt that while the band knew their music, they wanted the audience to know more than that. They wanted them to hear the lyrics clearly too. During the sound check, they wanted the vocals to be distinct, and it's this quality that perhaps sets them apart from any other band in the genre. No wonder, every Chandrabindoo song is a snapshot of the times.
- Raktim Sen
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