Bengali community celebrates Hindu Durga festival

Members of the Dunedin Bengali community celebrate Durga Puja and the Autumn Festival at the...
Members of the Dunedin Bengali community celebrate Durga Puja and the Autumn Festival at the Andersons Bay Bowling Club, in Bayfield Rd, yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Celebrating culture, diversity and being "together".

That is what Durga Puja was all about for Dunedin’s Bengali community yesterday.

About 90 people attended Durga Puja, a festival that celebrates the Hindu goddess Durga, and the Autumn Festival, at Andersons Bay Bowling Club, in Bayfield Rd.

Celebrating all cultures was a strength, event co-organiser and University of Otago Department of Physics senior research fellow Dr Amita Deb said.

"We value diversity, we value celebrating each other’s culture — that build the bonds."

Co-organiser and School of Pharmacy senior lecturer Dr Shyamal Das agreed and said it was about being "together".

It was also a chance to teach young children about their own culture, including his own daughter who was a year old when they left Bangladesh.

"As a parent now, we feel that we have little children who are missing the everyday Puja activities — we are far from our own country.

"As a parent it is our duty to teach our culture."

It was particularly special this year as it was the first time in Dunedin that a full statue of Ma Durga had been imported for the festival, he said.

Dr Das and Dr Deb also felt lucky to be able to celebrate it as many people in other countries could not or had to do it from home, due to Covid-19.

"We are lucky in Dunedin that we are doing it in person," Dr Deb said.

There were three prayer sessions yesterday as well as a cultural programme organised by Dr Supta Das and Dr Razib Datta which included singing, dancing and a play.

The festival would continue today along with two more prayer sessions.

While it was a Bengali-organised event, all Indians held celebrations around this time and they — as well as all other New Zealanders — had been welcomed at the festival.

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