The festive mood has set-in among the Bengalis in Chennai as mahalaya amavasya on Friday marked the beginning of Durga Puja, which is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Especially for those Bengalis in the city, who haven’t been able to go back home, the South Madras Cultural Association (SMCA) is filling in the vacuum. For a Bengali, Durga Puja is larger than life. The five days of the festival is fully packed with fun, food and ‘adda’. It’s a routine in
Bengal, people tune in radio on mahalaya during the wee hours to listen to shlokas and narration of Maa Durga slaying Mahisasur. But as a surprise, a radio station in Chennai too played mahalaya indicating confluence of cultures. The puja starts exactly after a week from mahalaya. This year, it starts on October 7. SMCA holds the biggest Durga Puja in Chennai. The puja is conducted in a community hall in Besant Nagar bus depot. This year it completed its 38th year. Prodyot Bowmick, president of SMCA said, “Every year there is footfall of around 80,000 people. But this year we expect at least one lakh people to visit since it coincides with Ayudha puja. It’s not just the Bengalis who participate in this puja. People from different communities participate.”
The Bengal delicacies will be available at the food stalls. Biryani to traditional Bengali break-fast ‘luchi-alu dom’ will be served. “We spend close to around `35 lakh on the festival,” he added. All five days, cultural programs would be organised. A play will be staged by a group of adults and children at the event. “The fun part is rehearsing for the cultural programs,” he said
Sujoy Banerjee who is a regular visitor to the puja. He said he loves the puja here more than what is he has seen in Kolkata. Here the beauty is that all the Bengalis get to socialise and bond well unlike in Kolkata. “The reason is here we are busy all throughout and during this time we get to socialize and bond well. I have been staying here for the past 16 years. During my initial stay in Chennai there were only four to five pujas but now it has increased to 10 to 15 pujas,” he shared. Further, Madhumita Chattopadhay, a retired school teacher who looks after the cultural wing of SMCA has been stay ing here for 26 years. She shared “I don’t prefer going to Kolkata during this time. Through this puja, we get to know lot of people. We enjoy working long hours for the cultural activities.”
Rupam Das, a businessman who has been in the city for 22 years, said that the number of Durga Pujas in Chennai is increasing and the Bengalis here seem to have made Chennai their home. “People say Bengaluru or Delhi celebrate Durga Puja vibrantly after Kolkata, but I feel in last three years Chennai has became a popular destination for Bengalis,” he smiled.