Navratri, Golu & Garba in the United States of America

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The loaded trucks have all arrived at the mandaps or the pandals of Calcutta. This year the pandals look like the Angkor Vat of Cambodia to the Eiffel Tower of Paris, glittering and dazzling. Teens and not-so-teens and everyone else is in a festive mood in Calcutta. So are we, even though the scene is a little different among the NRI Bengalis of the United States of America? Some of us have already celebrated Devi Ma’s arrival in America on 1st October, some are scheduled on the weekend of 7th October and some even later; after all crossing the Atlantic is not an easy job.

Some pujas are to be held in the coming weekend of 15th and 16th October. But for us, it’s not just Durga Puja but all other festivities that are held elsewhere in India and are connected to Devi Durga. Here are a few glimpses of the festivities related to the Devi in the United States: First: Mahisashur Mardini:

South Bend (Indiana): Organised by Chhandam, the local Bengali group. The unique idea of Prof. Amitava Dutt of the University of Notre Dame, (Indiana) brought Bengalis from state and neighboring states together to celebrate Durga Puja. This is the second year for Chhandam and the arrangements were good. This year the Puja has been done exclusively by the Bengali community (no contributions from anyone other than Bengalis). Families could even sponsor the Puja with their own personal contribution. The arrangements included elaborate Prasad, bhog and a vegetarian meal. The Puja was held in the Hindu Temple complex in the same city.

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Golu:  Navaratri Golu is the decoration of dolls associated with worship of Durga for the nine nights of Navratri. Its more popular in the south indian states of India. Dolls of different kinds are displayed on ‘padis’ numbered tiers and the entire set is of odd numbers, 5, 7 or 9 steps. Earlier the dolls would be mainly about religious features, of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. But nowadays, all sorts of dolls are put up as decoration. The kolam or the rangoli is made in front of the house and a lamp is lit. Married ladies receive gifts like Paan, beetle nuts and fruits and exchange ‘haldi-kumkum.’ Like ‘visarjan’ among the Bengalis during Durga Puja, in Golu, on the Vijaya Dashami day one doll is put to sleep, marking an end to the festival. The Prasad offered are simply mouth-watering.

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(Photo courtesy: Srividya Sridhar & Lakshmi Subramanian)

Garba/Dandiya: Garba and Dandiya was organized by the Indian Gujrati community of Saint Joseph, Michigan and the dance was held in YMCA of the same city. Since, the purpose of Durga/Amba/Bhavani puja is to get everyone together, like its called ‘sarvajanin.’ All indians gathered here, dressed in their best glittering dresses and danced to the beat of the song. At first it was Garba followed by Dandiya (dancing with sticks). After the dance ‘anjali’ was offered and then Prasad was distributed among everyone.

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