Durga Puja has been associated with Bengalis from time immemorial as it is a festival celebrated with Puja, cultural programmes, different types of sumptuous foods, etc. In Hyderabad and Secunderabad, there are lakhs of Bengali population. Exact data is not available, but as per Deccan Chronicle, October 12, 2021, over the decades, the number of Durga Puja mandaps has increased to around 60 in Hyderabad and Secunderabad, with about 6.5 lakh Bengalis in the twin cities celebrating the festival. It is noteworthy to mention that as of October 2021, around 6.5 lakh Bengalis were living in the twin cities, so naturally, the number has gone up.
Generally, Durga Puja is celebrated for four days- Maha Saptami, Maha Astami, Maha Navami, and Vijayadashami (immersion of Devi idols). Sometimes, one day before the celebration started, which is known as Maha Shasthi. The noteworthy point is that lucrative pandals are made based on various themes such as climate change, soil erosion, water conservation, an ideal village, etc. This year, Chandrayaan-3 might get its place. During 4/5 days of celebration, the Bhog (cooked food meant as Prasadam is prepared and served to all visitors) and different cultural programmes are organised for all 4/5 days. Regarding Bhog, it is pertinent to mention that on different days, different items are prepared- one day- rice, vegetable curry, dal, payasam; another day, Khichuri and mixed vegetables (locally known as Labra), sweets; another day, vegetable fried rice (in Bengali known as Polao) and some fried items and in another day Poori (Luchi in Bengali) and vegetables. These foods are common in almost all Puja pandals, and sometimes tomato with sugar, known as ‘Tomato Chatni’, and different types of sweets are served. The cultural festivals inter alia include -dances, songs, different types of competitions- quizzes, essays, recitations, blowing of Shankh, etc. This year, 2023 Maha Saptami will be celebrated on 21 October. It may be mentioned here that based on Tithi (lunar day), celebration is observed. So, every year, dates vary. It is noteworthy to mention that whatever the number of pandals in twin cities all the puja pandals are crowded from the afternoon till midnight with the energetic sound of Dhakis (special Drum used in celebration) keeping the puja spirit alive.
In 2023, around 100 families (mostly Bengali or have Bengali connection) of Bandlaguda Jagir (Suncity), Hyderabad, established “Udjapan Sanskritik Samiti” to sustain and promote cultural events among large masses who are leaning towards Bengali culture residing in the area. The members of the Samiti have planned to organize festivals, traditions, culture, and ethos and actively contribute to the cultural exchange with the local populace, adding to the region’s diversity and promoting bonding among different communities. The Samiti is organizing its maiden year of the Durga Puja celebration with lots of hope, hype, and hoopla vis-à-vis engaging cultural and non-cultural events. The President of the Samiti, Nilay Kumar Mondal, feels that “People travel to far-off places within the city during Durga Puja for pushpanjali (prayer with flowers) and other rituals. With the growing landscape of the locality, this initiative ensures the festival is taken to the doorstep of people residing in Bandlaguda Jagir and its vicinity”. According to the Secretary of the Samiti, Mridul Chakraborty, “Bandlaguda Jagir is a growing region of Hyderabad and provides immense scope to organize such festivals of grand scale. The celebration would be another feather on the cap of the locality”.
The “Udjapan Sanskritik Samiti” invites all the people, irrespective of language, caste, creed, etc., to visit K.K. Garden Function Hall, Raghuram Nagar Colony, Suncity, Bandlaguda Jagir to make the celebration a great success.
Dr. Shankar Chatterjee is a former Professor and Head (CPME), NIRD & PR, Hyderabad