Durga Puja Celebrations Around the World
In Bangladesh, Durga Puja is celebrated with great fanfare. It forms the biggest religious festival for the Hindu community, who form a minority in Bangladesh. The festival is observed in almost every district of the country, despite the dominant religion being Islam. Numerous Durga Puja pandals are erected and decorated beautifully in every corner of Bangladesh, including the villages. According to a 2007 census, the approximate number of Puja Mandap in Bangladesh for that year was a staggering figure of 20,649. In Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, local residents seat a virgin(generally a little girl) in the local temple during Durga Puja festival. The virgin is regarded as a symbol of purity and worshippers offer prayers to the virgin as a symbolic representation of worshipping Goddess Durga. Here Bijoya Dashami, the concluding day of the Durga Puja festivities, is a government holiday. The five-day Durga Puja festival ends on this day with the immersion of idols in the rivers and sea across Bangladesh.
In Nepal, Durga Puja is known as "Dashain" and observed as a ten-day festival that celebrates the triumph of Goddess Durga over the evil force represented by Mahishasura. Nepal being predominantly a Hindu nation, Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the nation as it is in India. Both nations follow the same Hindu calendar and hence, the date of the "Dashain" festival coincides with the "Durga Puja" in India. The "Dashain" festivities not only witness religious observance by the people of Nepal but also find them visiting their families and having a joyous time. The King of Nepal plays a key role in the festivities, particularly during Saptami (the Seventh day of the pujas). Inspite of the overthrow of monarchy in Nepal, the Royal Family still has a significant cultural role in the nation. During "Dashain", banks and government offices are closed and most of the activities in the country come to a halt. Most buses do not ply during the festive days.
In Australia, Durga Puja is observed by the Indian immigrants with great gusto. In Sydney, the capital city of the country, thousands of Bengali immigrants and other members of the Indian diaspora gather on Maha Sasthi (the first day of the Puja) to provide a warm welcome to Goddess Durga and her four children. The women drape themselves in in dazzling Baluchari, Dhakai, Tangail and Kantha saris while the men wear kurta and dhoti in keeping with the festive tradition. Clay idols of the Goddess and her divine family are sculpted and painted by local Indian artists and set up inside the colourful pandals (marquees) adorned with spring flowers and other embellishments. Kids are encouraged to enter into a drawing and painting competition while adults take part in or enjoy musical performances consisting of traditional Rabindra Sangeet and modern fusion music. In Melbourne, Durga Puja is celebrated in the southern suburb of Keysborough. It is attended by a large number of Bengalis from across the state and as far as Canberra. The puja here is a community affair with everyone taking part in the process, from men looking after the management to women preparing the sweets and teenagers cutting the fruits for prashad(offering). Throughout the festive week, Indians (especially Bengalis) gather at the puja pandals after work.
Here Durga Puja is organised by the residing Indian community with great fervor. In Belgium, the Durga Puja celebrations began in 2006 with the efforts of Sarbajanin Puja Samity, Brussels. The “Durga Murti” (statue of Goddess Durga) is specially made in Kumortali (West Bengal, India) and flown to Brussels for this occassion. The Durga Puja(worship of Goddess Durga) is done in typical Bengali tradition for all the five days of the festival. Pandals may or may not be constructed in Europe; the idols are an absolute necessity. On Bijoya Dashami, the Durga idols are immersed in local waterbodies. Recently, the immersion of the Durga idol has been allowed in the Thames river for the festival which is held in London.