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The Bengalee Association’s
The Durga Pooja is the Hindu festival to celebrate
the goddess Durga and her victory over the evil
buffalo demon, Mahishasura. It is the biggest
festival of the year for Bengali Hindus (Bengal is a
north Indian state) in particular, though it is
celebrated throughout our country.
So when I picked the Pujo for the task, it felt
appropriate to attend the one hosted by the Bengali
Association of Bangalore (which is southern India).
The Pooja was held is a huge empty ground where they had set
up tents for the stalls and makeshift auditoriums.
On entering …
• Parking area filled with vehicles. Terrible traffic jam leading to
the gates of the field.
•HUGE crowd. (I didn’t realize that so many people would want
to celebrate a festival in a huge crowded place instead of at
home with their family, as that is what I am used to.)
•Indian carnival atmosphere more than a religion ceremony’s.
(I later found out that this was because the Pooja ceremony
was over in the morning itself and this was just the celebration
• Two large tents that served as makeshift auditoriums. One
housed the goddess Durga’s idol and had a stage for
performances. The other just had a stage for even more
• Two entire sides of the ground were lined with around 50 food
• Other stalls selling handicrafts and trinkets, sarees and cheap
• The place wasn’t very clean - a lot of dirty plastic chairs strewn
around, disposable items like plates just thrown around.
• The entire place smelt of food. There were so many food
smells all mixed up and it made me feel very very hungry the
moment I entered.
• It also smelt very strongly of smoke because a lot of people
were cooking the food with huge fire-y not modern stoves.
Tastes and food :
• A lot of traditional food was being cooked right there and
served, with a delicious selection of meats and sweets and rotis
but nothing too different from the food we get around here.
• There were also a lot of fast food stalls like Krispy Crème and
• Quite a few pickle stalls with exotic varieties (I didn’t go
experiment, though I would’ve liked to, because they were
being sold only in huge bottles).
• Many ice gola (crushed ice dipped in flavoured syrup) stalls.
Clearly a Bengali favorite. (I have never seen so many ice gola
stalls all at the same place).
• Most people were conversing in English itself or in Hindi.
Nobody was really talking in Bengali.
• The announcements made by the help desk, however, were all
in Bengali with no English or Hindi versions of it.
• An announcement about a lost wallet was made in Bengali
too. (I found this a bit unfair as a large percentage of the people
attending were definitely not Bengali speaking. I went along
with my Bengali friend’s family and that is how I knew what
they were talking about.)
• All the music and performances took place in Bengali. There
was everything from tradition Bengali folk music to Bengali rock
The People :
• There were a lot of Bengali people present obviously but
there was also a very huge number of south Indians.
•The Bengalis were all dressed up for the occasion in both
traditional clothes and dresses. Most of the women wore
sarees and some were tied in non traditional ways and looked
• The south Indians on the other hand were very casually
dressed and appeared to not care about anything except eating
the delicious food!
• Despite the place being really dirty, the people appeared to be
very polished and classy. It was quite amusing to watch people
with really expensive high heels tottering through the mud and
slush on the field.
• Despite there being chairs to sit on, most people preferred to
stand up and eat and then quickly move to the next food stall
and eat some more. Most of the chair occupants were people
who finished eating and wanted to relax and talk.
• Everyone moved at a slow pace and during the entire evening, I
saw only one man striding somewhere purposefully.
• Though the place was quite crowded, people avoiding brushing
against each other as much as possible and were very well
mannered. (This is a bit rare in crowds in India.)
• In the tent with the idol of the goddess Durga, there were a few
people who stood facing the idol with their eyes closed and
praying reverently despite the din and confusion around them.
• People had a strong sense of safety. Not many people were
holding onto their children. Most of them were running around
and playing and not being too closely watched by their parents.
(I have NEVER seen parents do that anywhere else in a crowded
place and I was quite shocked.)
•Some really dignified ladies suddenly took off their heels and
climbed onto plastic chairs to view the performances better. It
was quite funny.
• Tradional Bengali smoke dance - a girl danced in the centre of
the stage holding a clay torch filled with burning coal while
drummers moved at the sides, thumping out the rhythm for her
dance. (After a while, though, the tent became filled with smoke
and my eyes started to burn and I had to leave.)