Brisbane’ Bengalees Durga Puja 2023
Bengali Society of Queensland (BSQ), thriving along the Brisbane River in Australia, proudly represents the heritage and culture of West Bengal along the Ganges River in Kolkata. Probasher Bangali feels at home along the meandering coasts of the Brisbane River and takes every opportunity to create and relive memories and moments of Kolkata so deeply rooted within. With profound care and love the BSQ community brings together every year the major events and festivities for all. The Bengali Society of Queensland has grown consistently and has spread its wings wide, bringing Probashi Bangali under one banner. Today, BSQ is one of the most populated Bengali communities of Queensland. This is the time of the year when new members are added to the BSQ fraternity every year – students, migrants, interstate movers and a large number of non-Bangali friends would flock to become a member and be a part of the family. It is the strong bond of childhood memories, lifestyle, food, bedtime stories, music, dance, movies, celebrations, shopping, adda, festivities and last but not the least, the Sharodiya and Diwali months, make a big difference to all. BSQ rekindles the greatest feeling of belonging and nostalgia that bonds every member into positive vibes and family feeling in a country that feels like home.
This year on the auspicious day, 14th October, BSQ members woke up early morning with the devotional voice of Sri Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s chanting of the Mahalaya. Every Bangali waits patiently to reflect on the spiritual journey of Devi Durga and seek her blessings listening closely with family the Vedic chants relaying the creation of Katyayani Maa Durga, broadcasted by Australian Indian Radio, one of the proud sponsors of BSQ. This is the beginning of Devi Pokhya, heralds the homecoming of Uma ( The other name of Ma Durga) that culminates into the Sharodiya Durgotsav, the biggest and the richest festival of every Bangali, spread in any corner of this planet. The festivities and celebrations are aimed to embrace the ritual of homecoming, be with their loved ones and share the prosperity together. Every day is to be felt like a new and happy day, welcome happiness and gather resources to make the ten days a memorable one until next year. Engage in Sharodiya Mantra – Pujo-r Gondho, with Pujo-r Bazar, Pujo-r Mandop, Pujo-r Alochona, Pujo-r Gaan, Pujo Shonkhya, and Pujo-r Anondyo – “Ay re chutey ay pujor gondho eshechey…“
Long before we heard the bells of Mahalaya and was singing along to the tunes of Agomoni Gaan, our Pujo Mandap’s decoration and theme was well and truly underway under the most creative and experienced hands of one member legend. BSQ’s Sri Sri Durga Mandap is a surprise that is brought to life and finally unveiled the evening before Saptami Pujo. Brisbane is lucky to get a new one each year. The devotees visiting the venue will spend time to admire most intriguingly the art and engineering masterpiece. BSQ is proud and immensely lucky to adorn Devi Durga with a unique backdrop every year since 2009. The garage, in a quiet Western Brisbane Suburban home of the couple, becomes the most active ground of design and artwork, quite in tradition to Kolkata Mandaps. Like the excitement of the Mahalaya, the new Mandap is an excitement, together with the lights which is done by another member’s couple keeping the same traditional Kolkatas lighting. The decorations, announcements of the activities and events that brings everyone together on a Friday evening after work to support in the display and make Durga-Pujo an event to come back to.
Durga Pujo is always full of emotion and nostalgia, and Brisbane’s Probash-er-Bangali community (BSQ) does care about it all – the planning, the management and the execution is no less than what can be a daughter’s hand in marriage. Not any minor chance of “missing out” will be accepted. Every detail goes into making the logistics, safety, entertainment, food, and brotherhood a great success. Any new member will strive to be a part of this mammoth display of worship and cultural extravaganza for their younger generation to witness and be a part of. A five-day event is zipped into two and half days – needs a powerful and action-packed arena. It is possible only with the support of all members, sponsors, donations, volunteers, earlier success stories and the hard work of BSQ Executive Committee. A major initiative also goes in bringing together other communities, Brisbane Council Members, The Local Councilors, The Prime Minister’s Office, the Premier’s Office, the sponsors, The Media Partners and event partners to join in the festivities and continue the strong bond of friend and mateship. Every community and ethnic group find time to support and embrace in the celebration of the Navaratri festival that is better known for BSQ as Durga Pujo.
It is by the tradition of the utsav and the rituals, Maa Durga is adorned with the best jewelleries, sarees, offerings and music-dance-happiness that takes prosperity to the pinnacle. Kolkata’s family and Bonedi pujo style becomes the background of what is seen replicated at BSQ pujo mandap. The flowers, the fresh fruits and vegetables, the delicious home-made bhog, the sugondhi dhuup-dhuno, kashor-ghonta and above all the kola bou is never forgotten. It is a grand show of ladies and gents in their best attire these three days working since early morning to midnight from chopping veggies, frying the luchi, cooking the meals, running errands, to packing and cleaning relentlessly. This pujo season, BSQ has welcomed 1000 guest attendees and served 3000 plus visitors through Friday to Sunday at Coorparoo Secondary College. BSQ was proud to receive letters of appreciation and acknowledgement from the Prime Minister’s and Premier’s Office along with our community stakeholders that went as record and is published in our Annual Magazine or Barshiki Patrika – Kashphool’23. The Kashphool – as the name says, symbolises the season of Devi Durga’s homeward journey. We enrich her homecoming releasing the magazine that showcases the creativity and talent that the members share from all levels. We acknowledge our sponsors, advertisers, members’ art, literature, recounts, life experiences and preserve it as a memory to cherish with family and friends.
“Dhakey ebar porlo kathi, durga pujo r nei je baki” the Protima is unveiled on the sixth day, called Shoshti with the gatherings and pomp of the kashor-ghonta, uloo-dhyoni and dhaak er bajna, making the advent of goddess a very welcoming, over longing and happy start. Maha Saptami, the seventh day ritual begins Saturday, with the rites of bathing the banana plant, the “Kola bou” is mandatory. There are many interpretations of the Kola Bou or Nabapatrika but it is understood that it depicts a woman ready after bath, clean and pure, will stay along and witness the procedure. The same is also sometimes regarded as Lord Ganesha’s wife or Devi Durga in simple attire herself, as the plant form. Maha Ashtami is the 8th day, when Mahishasur was defeated, marks the most important and popular day of visits and gathering by the devotees. Men, women and children will pray and offer their devotional words as the “Anjali” in the name of devi durga. The Anjali is very popular in BSQ, and it is revered many times so that no one misses “Anjali” for another year!! The Khichudi bhog is a must here and the home-made sweets are distributed, visitors and devotees wait in long queues patiently to get the blessings as Bhog-proshaad.
Shondhi Pujo, Maha-Navami and Maha Dashami are the actions for Sunday, the last day of Pujo in Brisbane. The culmination during the day is the Hom – during Shondhi Pujo and the Shindoor khela during Bijoya Dashami in the evening. The 10th day is the “Bisharjan”, when Devi Durga is prepared to return from the celebrations to her abode, where she lives with her sons and daughters, in Kailash. This is popularly named as Bijoya Dashami and all married women would indulge in adorning the Sindoor to another women in love and care of their marriage and prays for a perfect bond and life partner. Unlike the immersion in the Ganges, Durga idol for BSQ is carefully preserved for next year. “Bolo Durga Maiki”, Ashchey Bochhor Abar Hobey…”is the word that is spread and sweets are shared to shower the blessings to all dear and near. The young take the blessings of the elders, saying “Shubho Bijoya”.
BSQ has a tradition of dancing to the drums beat and enjoy the deliciously cooked food to end the night of Visarjan and Dashami on Sunday, this year was Sunday, 29th October. Each day and each night saw a huge gathering and we were proud to see BSQ’s banner spreading and the member following increase. It is an amazing sight to see new faces, young students and family showering their enthusiasm and love of being able to connect for a reason that is deep and true to the core of every Bengali and every Indian born Australian. The icing on the cake, what everyone would look forward, to sit back, relax and enjoy with friends, the Cultural Program – a must have on the Durgotsav Itinerary for Saturday 28th October. This year we were lucky to have Honourable Indian Consulate Mrs. Archana Singh as the Chief Guest, FICQ President Anoop Nunuru and the General Secretary and other eminent guests to preside over the gala show and musical extravaganza. The program closed with a warm vote of thanks from the President, BSQ, Tapas Kumar Mandal, his EC, along with the reverberating claps and rejoicing of the spectators at Coorparoo Secondary College that was full to capacity. Three cheers to team BSQ and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land where we thrive and gather.
Report : Saheli Mukherjee
P.C : Pablo Lanata