Christchurch Durga Pooja symbolises Bengali culture and identity

The Main Deity of Durga Mata: Crafted by artists from India (Photo Supplied)

Pronomita Paul
Christchurch, October 24, 2023

Bengali culture is known for its vibrant festivities, rich traditions, and profound love for art and literature.

In Christchurch, the Bengali community came together on 20 and 21 October 2023 to celebrate one of its most significant and beloved festivals, Durga Pooja (also spelt Puja).

The heartwarming event unfolded at the HeiHei Community Hall, showcasing the unity, diversity, and cultural richness of Bangaliana in this picturesque city.

Durga Pooja, also known as Sharadiya Durga Utsav, is a major Hindu Festival that commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the Demon King Mahishasura.

Bengali Culture extolled: Sharmaistha Basu, Ankita Saha, Pronomita Paul, Mukta Das, Ritu Singh, Sushruti Adhikary at the Durga Pooja Ceremony in Christchurch (Photo Supplied)

A taste of West Bengal

For the Bengali Diaspora across the world, Durga Pooja is more than just a religious event; it is a symbol of their identity, and heritage and a beautiful testament to their art, culture, and cuisine.

The HeiHei Community Hall was transformed into a mini Kolkata, replicating the atmosphere of the iconic Durga Pooja pandals found in West Bengal, India. The air was filled with the aroma of delectable Bengali dishes, including Pulao, Cholar Dal, Dosa, Jalebi, Rasgulla, Sandesh, Payes, Luchi, and Pachmishali. These traditional delights are not just food; they are a taste of home for Bengali expatriates, evoking memories of childhood and cherished celebrations.

The main attraction, of course, was the magnificent idol of Goddess Durga, meticulously crafted by skilled artisans who travelled from India. The idol was adorned with exquisite jewellery, elegant sarees, and flowers, embodying the Divine feminine energy that Bengalis hold in the highest regard. Devotees and attendees thronged around the idol, offering their prayers and receiving blessings.

Cultural programmes and performances were an integral part of the celebration.

Pronomita Paul (right) with Ankita Saha at the Durga Pooja Ceremony in Christchurch (Photo Supplied)

Cultural Rhapsody

Artists, both young and old, presented a mesmerising array of traditional and contemporary dance forms. The event started with a chorus of Rabindra Sangeet by the members of the Organising Team.

Beautiful Bengali songs and poetry were also performed, followed by Bharat Natyam and Bhangra dances. The music and dance echoed through the hall, touching the hearts of all those present. This blend of classical and modern art forms showcased the evolving nature of Bengali culture and its embrace of diversity.

The highlight of the evening was the fusion Dhak performance by the Dekaworwor West African Drum Group. Everyone present could not resist dancing to the fiery and rhythmic drum performance, making it an exhilarating sight.

Transcending borders

The Durga Pooja celebration in Christchurch was not just a religious observance but a cultural phenomenon that transcends borders. It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Bengali community as they honour their roots while embracing the diversity of their new home. The event at HeiHei Community Hall was a moment of shared joy and camaraderie, where attendees, regardless of their backgrounds, came together to appreciate the beauty of Bengali culture.

The Durga Pooja Organising Committee of the Bengali Community in Christchurch (Photo Supplied)

In addition to the cultural festivities, there were also delicious dosa stalls, homemade sweets, and painting and henna stalls that added to the vibrant atmosphere. Bouncy castles and other attractions made the celebration even more enjoyable for attendees of all ages.

As the sun set on October 21, 2023, the sounds of conch shells and dhak drums reverberated in the air, signalling the end of the festivities. With a promise to return the following year, the Bengaliana community of Christchurch left the venue with their hearts full of joy, their spirits uplifted, and their cultural heritage alive and thriving in their beloved city.

As mentioned, Durga Pooja in Christchurch is not just a celebration; it is a symbol of multicultural unity and the enduring spirit of Bengaliana.

Pronomita Paul was among the organisers of the Durga Pooja and Festival held in Christchurch on October 20 and 21, 2023.

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