Durga Puja has become one of the major festivals in the UK, at par with the country's Diwali celebrations. There are over 50 organisations celebrating Durga Puja across the UK, many in London attracting people from across the communities. While some of them organise their pujas and rituals according to the almanac, others organise them around the weekend, so that more and more people can attend and celebrate with their families. Sourcing idols from Kumortuli (a place in Kolkata famous for making idols) to food to cultural activities, Durga pujas across the UK and Europe are in no way less than the festivities in Kolkata now. It transcends all barriers, creating a home away from home, for the 'nostalgic' Bengalis.
This year Utsab London is organising their first ever Durga Puja in Orpington's Crofton Hall from 18-20 October. Orpington which is a town in South East of London, is home to hundreds of Asians, especially Bengalis and Tamils. They are a thriving non-profit community organisation which aims to help promote the dual identities of being "British-Bengali". The 'protima' (idol) has been produced by famous artisan Praaonto Pal from Kumortuli, Kolkata.
London Sharad Utsav organised a Sharad mela on Saturday 29 September, to kickstart their festivities at the Ealing Townhall. Almost 350 people were present, enjoying food, cultural activities as well as children's talent hunt. Celebrating their 10th year, their modular Durga will showcase various art forms from different regions of Bengal- a unique idea promoted by The Bengal Heritage Project in association with LSU. They will be hosting their puja from 18-21 October at the Ealing Town Hall.
One of the oldest Durga pujas since 1960s is by London Durgotsav Committee, popularly known as the Camden Durga Puja. Believed to be sponsored every year by Indian-origin businessman Lakshmi Mittal, this year it has found a new home at the Irish Centre Camden, after years of celebration in Camden Townhall at King's Cross. The committee will host their puja from 17 October till 21st, and promise a fantastic Bijoya (Dusserah) concert on 21 October. Their ‘bhog’ will be cooked by the famous central London Bengali restaurant Little Kolkata. Prabir Chattopadhyay of Little Kolkata fame told Asian Voice, "We are planning to have a special menu for all the 4 days of Durga puja. Please also come and celebrate puja with authentic Bengali food at our restaurant in Covent Garden."
Ethnically one of the most diverse of London boroughs, Hounslow is home to a large number of migrants from India. In its 7th year, Durga Puja organised by Prabashi, is attracting people from across London and surrounding areas. After an eventful immersion of the deity in the Thames in 2016, Prabashi obtained a new idol produced by popular artisan Prasanta Pal from Kumortuli. The cost of the deity was met by Santanu Poddar, a founding member, the Hindustan Times reported. Labour MP Seema Malhotra had attended their puja last year. Essex Indians are organising their puja in St John's hall, Romford, in East London from 19th to 21st October. Durga puja by Royal Berkshire Bengali Association also deserves a special mention.
Panchamukhee Durga Utsav will celebrate their puja for six days between 13th and 20th October 2018 in Harrow Arts Centre. It will include a cultural carnival where people from all backgrounds can participate and enjoy as one. It will provide a common platform for different communities to come together and celebrate the cultural mosaic of today’s multicultural Britain. There will be 35 cultural events and a Pujabazar, which will include various stalls. At the inaugural event highlight will be renowned artist Goutam Ghoshal from India and ‘Mahishashur Mardini’- the musical.
Milton Keynes Ananda Club proudly celebrates it's 30th Durga Puja this year from 16-20 October. Over the years the club has grown from strength to strength expanding in every way, reliving the spirit of Durga puja thousands of miles away from where it originates.
Subir Chatterjee, Vice President of MKAC and a member for the last 29 years told Asian Voice, "the two prime aspects of Durga puja are the authenticity of the puja itself, which is well taken care of by the women of 55 member families, and ofcourse the authentic and elaborate home cooked food. You've guessed it right, all food is cooked at site by the K-team (a group of cooking enthusiasts amongst the members), freshly, each day, with the menu that gets elaborate as we progress from Maha Shashtit to Maha Navami.”
Dr Sumit Konar from Edinburgh with Abhirup Ghosh and Maitri Roy have created a website which lists around 60 Durga pujas taking place across the UK between 12-20 October 2018 (https://ukpujaparikrama.wixsite.com/2018). The website lists pujas alphabetically, but one could use the search button to find something near their home as well as per date.
Speaking to Asian Voice, Dr Konar said, “All puja organisers came and joined a common whatsapp platform. They provided all the useful informations related to their puja. All credit go to them. It was a big collaborative project and not a competetion between any pujas- big or small, old or new. They all sent their consent following the GDPR policy.”
Durga Puja in Holland
Not only UK, it is the second year, 'Holland-e-Hoichoi', the Indian-Bengali association in Netherlands, which is organising their very own Durga Puja in Netherlands.
Similar to last year, the members of Hoichoi are committed to bring back the real flavour of Bengal’s biggest festival in Netherlands – tradition mixed with outburst of enjoyment, culture mixed with emotion, joy of celebration mixed with warmth of getting together – ‘Hoichoi’ (excitement) in true sense.
Though they are performing the rituals according to the almanac, and the dates collide with regular working days in Netherlands, the members of Hoichoi are optimistic about many people turning out to celebrate, counting on the sentiments of a Bengali associated with Durga Puja.
As usual, there will be typical Bengali food on all four days of the puja, but, this year, there are three things what makes Hoichoi’s Durga Puja unique: Theme- based Puja, Theme song composed by Kolkata-based band Kaya, and a musical evening by Indian Idol star Amit Sana on 20th October celebrating 'Bijoya Sommeloni'!