Thursday, October 21

Mock-up Durga immersion at Thames

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Bengal’s immersion ritual, “bhashaan,” has flown into the Thames. And how.

London Sharad Utsav (LSU), signed up by British Council and the Mamata Banerjee government to promote Durga Puja among the diaspora, organized a “mock-up bhashaan” at the Thames river, for the first time ever in London. And last Sunday, the band of Bengalis living in the UK capital took everyone by surprise with their “bhashaan on Thames” event.

LSU, which will be celebrating its 10th Durga Puja festival in London starting October 19, took its old idol to the river banks and performed a mock-up “bhashaan” (meaning immersion in Bengali).

The Thameside near Putney was brightened up by the LSU women draped in the signature “bhashaan” attire, the laal-paar (white-red border) saris, while men were in their traditional punjabi (read kurta) pyajama. The men were holding last year’s idol and mocking up the scene of immersion, while the women stood near the riverside with their “borondalas” (platter containing paan, supari and other stuff as part of the farewell ritual). “I dare say, the atmosphere in Putney was no different than any of ghats of Hooghly river on the Durga Puja bhashaan day,” gushed Samrita Das, an IT professional working in London. Indeed, quite a number of locals stopped by to witness the magnificent set-up by the Thames.

While the unique scenario was enthusiastically being captured by internationally-acclaimed photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, the LSU team, chanted “asche bochor abar hobe” (until next year). Days ahead of the Durga Puja (it commences on 16th October this year), people living miles away from their homes in Bengal seemed to be living their very own Durga Puja festival. Fullerton-Batten’s photographs will be featured in the Totally Thames festival of next year.

The Pujas, comparable to the Rio carnival, are known to bring Bengal’s capital, Kolkata, to a halt during those five days until “bhashaan” or the grand finale, which is marked by the grandeur of processions on one hand and a teary goodbye to the deity on the other.

“#bhashaanonthames is LSU’s effort – of taking Durga Puja to a global platform. One of the most emotional moments for a Bengali during the Durga Puja is the ‘bhashaan’ that marks the end to the five-day Durga Puja festivities with the immersion of the idols into the river or any other waterbody. We wanted to show this unique ritual to Londoners and tell them how our grand annual carnival culminates in the immersion festival, symbolizing the end and a beginning as the clay idol disintegrates with the river water,” said Anirban Mukhopadhyay, president, LSU, explaining why the unique idea struck him and his fellow Puja committee members.

“During ‘bhashaan’ or the festival ritual of bidding adieu to the Goddess, as the idol is being immersed in the water and we imagine the Mother deity tearfully returning to her abode in the Himalayas with her four children,” said Mukhopadhyay.

LSU, known for bringing the age-old Bengali rituals to life in London – be it the East Bengal and Mohun Baagan fan teams vying for the symbolic IFA shield, or the khunti pujo (the ritual that signals flagging off of the elaborate puja pandal construction) — came up with “mock-up bhashaan” in Thames near London’s Putney.

“Usually the non-resident Bengalis in London miss out on this pulse of the Durga Pujo celebration. Even though there are quite a few Durga Pujas in London and elsewhere in the UK, ‘bhashaan’ is usually not part of the curriculum due to various environmental reservations. So we took one step forward and shaped the ‘mock up bhashaan’ concept – in another of our Durga Puja firsts in London,” said LSU member Prosenjit Bhattacharya.

Source: Times of India

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