Celestial homecoming – when the Goddess came to Southern California

These last couple of weekends witnessed a different travel- the one of Hindu Goddess Durga come to earth from the skies with her 4 kids. This is an annual trip by the family, and this tradition is celebrated across the world.

Hindu Goddess Durga

Who is Durga

In the elusive mythical world of gods and demons, a demon (Mahishasura) got very powerful and was torturing the gods and driving them away.

The Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv) got together and with the help of the lesser gods created this power (female form) and it’s manifestation was Durga.

Durga’s husband is none other than Shiva and she has 4 children.

Her weapons are symbolic – she has 10 hands that carry 10 different weapons she has received from the Gods.

The weapons – deconstructed

As complex as mythology is, we, celebrate the homecoming of Goddess Durga when she descends from the heavens to the Earth for 4 days .

Where humans create Gods

To symbolize her homecoming, idols ( the Goddess and her children) are made with clay and other biodegradable material.

Idols being made

The idols are traditionally decorated with Eco friendly- biodegradable material – Shola.

SHOLA IS AN ANNUAL AQUATIC HERB WHICH GROWS IN THE WILD, IN MARSHY, WATERLOGGED AREAS AND AT THE SAME TIME WATER RESISTANT. IT IS ALSO REFERRED TO AS THE INDIAN CORK.
Her adornments

Some interesting trivia

Kolkata puja is listed as Intangible UNESCO heritage site

https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/durga-puja-inscribed-unesco-representative-list-intangible-cultural-heritage-humanity

Kumartuli- almost all idols are made in this small village , where, for generations, this has been their main occupation

Kumartuli

Sonagachi- for centuries, the first lump of clay that is used to create the Goddess comes from Sonagachi. This was once Asia’s largest red light area.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonagachi

The earthly abode- city of Joy

When the Goddess comes home, she and her family stay in style.

In Kolkata and all around the world, makeshift structures, pandals, are built for keeping her idol for 4 days during her stay on earth

The pandals started as a room in a house or a makeshift tent in a neighborhood but have morphed into grandiose structures and a million dollar industry. Neighborhoods compete with each other to erect a better pandal.

As a result, poeple in Kolkata have seen the world without touring it- whether it’s the Burj Khalifa or the Vatican, they have been memorialized as a pandal at some point or other. Even Van Gogh paintings have visited the city through this living art.

An ode to Van Gogh- Starry nights

The Burj Khalifa In Kolkata
The Vatican in Kolkata
Making of a wonder- wonders of the world.

This photo illustrates the humble beginnings of the Vatican .

It takes 4-5 months of heavy production work- design and construction and provides livelihood to hundreds of technicians and workers who build these just for 4 days.

https://www.news18.com/amp/news/lifestyle/durga-puja-2022-the-best-known-pandals-in-kolkata-to-explore-this-year-6070807.html

After the celebrations – an emotional farewell

After 4 days of celebration ( prayers, offerings , social events) , the Goddess and her family are taken to holy Ganges or a local water body and immersed.

This is probably the most adrenaline rushed moment, as the year’s hard work and merriment meets the waters.

And She is gone…. Another year of waiting …

Home turf – Southern California

While Kolkata tours the world, the Goddess is hosted in Southern California in 3 organizations in no less of a style

However, the four days of festivities are crunched into a 2.5 day weekend. The duration may be smaller, but the excitement is unparalleled.

Both the organizations charge a nominal membership fee to cover the renting of facilities ( usually a high school), mouthwatering meals for all the days as well as entertainment).

It is a monumental effort to organize these events, since the organizers are all volunteers from the community who survive on Red Bull and caffeine shots in the last few months prior to the big weekend.

Bengali Association of Southern California
Dakshini

The offerings

One of the many offerings to the Goddess. There is a priest and a team of hard working volunteers that conduct the pujas for all the days.

Photo sessions

Insta worthy photos have become the blueprint of this event. People meticulously plan for days on what to wear, how to coordinate with the family, for the Insta worthy pictures.

Another phenomenon- the award for the most number of people in a single frame goes to…

Prom style pictures

Bring your money

Vendors selling pretty jewellery

Lights, camera, action…

The organizers spend a concerted effort to get sponsors to provide solid support entertainment for 3 days. Musicians, singers ( local and from India) are brought in to put up an Oscar worthy show.

Benny Dayal concert

So long…it’s time to say goodbye

After 3 days of adrenaline packed activities, traditional and non- traditional, Sunday evening comes around. It’s that time again… a time to say goodbye

The Goddess represents the feminine energy in its purest form. The ladies wish her adieu by smearing her and each other with Sindoor (vermillion) to the sounds of the traditional drums.

In our part of the world, the idols are made of fiber glass and used and stored for many years. On Sunday evening, it’s pack up time, the u-haul is brought in and She symbolically goes back to the celestial skies.

An emotion lived through

An emotion called Durga Puja

Through the 4 days or the weekend, we live through an emotion – of a Mother coming home with her kids, celebrating with Her people and going back to her celestial home. As we pray with the collective consciousness, we feel the energy of the idols coming to life.

To us , She is our eternal bliss, our perennial hope and a reminder that the circle of life goes on..She leaves momentarily, but lives in our senses- Until she comes again.. next year.

,

24 responses to “Celestial homecoming – when the Goddess came to Southern California”

  1. কি ভালো লিখেছিস। so simple but so touchy.

    খুব ভালো লিখিস তুই – keep on writing.

    Just one Comment – বেণী দয়াল না হয়ে কোনো বাংগালী শিল্পী হলে – আমার আরো ভালো লাগতো

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    1. Thanks for reading. I’ll try to find the videos related to Jayati Chakroborty and Soumendro

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  2. Love it Chumki!
    Btw … had no idea that the idols in So Cal are made of fiber glass.

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  3. Very well narrated..
    Happy Durga puja. Goddess Durga bless you

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    1. Thank you for reading

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  4. Enjoyed this so much! Got to learn a lot and the visuals are on point. Made me want to go to Kolkata to travel the world! So Cal is buzzing!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback

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  5. Enjoyed reading this! Got to know all about the amazing process behind the celebration and made me want to go to Kolkata to travel the world! Visuals are spot on…this was wonderful!

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  6. Enjoyed this article
    pretty much sums up my sentiment about Durga puja in Southern California -we have created our own Kolkata here !

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  7. Chanchal dasgupta Avatar
    Chanchal dasgupta

    Excellent effort to catch the reflection of Durgapuja in a pot of water. Very well written. I think the unique emotion of Durgapuja is to treat the Goddess both as mother as well as a daughter in the family who comes for a few days of annual vacation to her own home from In laws place

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  8. Eloquent, precise and beautifully narrated. Enjoyed reading it . Keep up the good work Chumki . I look forward to your blogs.

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  9. Really enjoyed reading your write up Chumki. Pictures added a wonderful visual tour for the reader. Keep writing my friend.

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  10. Beautiful write up Chumki . For a person not familiar with all the process and effort it take make such a grand celebration a success, it was very insightful! Thank you for the precise and eloquent write up. Loved the visual . Looking forward for your next blog . Keep blogging ❤️

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    1. Thanks Sapna. Glad u enjoyed the read. Hope to see you at the pujos sometime

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  11. Chumki,
    Really enjoyed reading this. Love your style!
    Keep writing!

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    1. Thanks Rakhi. Means a lot

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  12. Very well articulated! For us Bengalis, all over the world, we yearn for Durga puja. Love your blog the way you have captured the essence of pujo. Keep blogging my dear💕

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  13. Nice post. It’s good to see you celebrate Durga Puja in South California. Shubho Bojoya!

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  14. Very nicely put. Love your simple and descriptive style of writing. Keep them coming. Loved the collage of photos.

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  15. Very well written. A comprehensive narration about Bengali’s greatest festival! Khub Bhalo laglo.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Loved the little details. Super!!

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