Wednesday, October 1, 2014

'Pujo' is here !!!

The period of the Goddess is is that beautiful time of the year when all heads bow in worship of the supremely radiant, fearless, feminine force, the divine 'shakti', the warrior Goddess, the one who slays all evil and frees the world from 'Mahishasur' (the invincible demon) ! And it is that time of the year when Bengalis across the world drop everything, work comes to a standstill and the entire community starts to prepare for Maa's descent onto earth, orchestrating festivities in all neighbourhoods, setting up 'pandals', creating the stage on which Maa shall reign, mounting the Lion and holding weapons in her ten hands, yes the season is here, the long awaited festival, 'Pujo' is here again after one whole year !!! :-)

This time of the year is not merely 'beautiful' with the crisp autumn air and 'shiulis' (the Bengali word for the 'harshingar' flower) forming a white and orange carpet on the grass beneath the trees, it is a period which is full of raw energy, where the change in the air is palpable. As a Bengali, I have grown up to love these days, right from 'Mahalay' (the first day of Pujo) when the Goddess comes to earth, to the all important ones from the sixth day ('Shoshti') onwards, earmarked for the Bengali world to celebrate with fervour and force as the Goddess is unveiled and the Pujas officially commence !

This is the first time I am away from my homeland during Durga Puja and the festival becomes even more important and special to me as the desire to recreate and participate in the festivities and revelries of this time of the year magnifies manifold with the distance from my loved ones in India.

As I sit in my living room, the all familiar sight of the frail 'dhakis' beating their leather strapped 'dhak' slung comfortably across their shoulder (almost as though they are feather weight) and that of the ladies and gentlemen serenading Maa, holding 'dhunuchis' in their hands and very often even by their mouth, flashes in front of my eyes. Be it during college or work, I would unfailingly take time off and go home to be with my family during this period. I remember going to the 'pujo-pandal' in my home town with my parents every year and soaking in the electrifying energy of the atmosphere as everyone around us would rejoice and celebrate the presence of the Goddess amongst us mere mortals, in reverence of the destroyer of evil spirits on earth, our saviour and protector ! I remember the excitement of seeing how the 'pratima' would look that year, the preparation of the 'thali' for the 'maha-ashtami puja' with five different varieties of fruit and the names of our ancestors written on it, the critical debate on whether the 'pandal' in the other neighbourhood looked better, the discussion on 'who-will-eat-what' from the food stalls (that started right from the time we sat in the car to get to the pandal, smiles), the queuing up for the 'bhog', the 'khichudi', the 'bhaaja', the 'chaatni' and the 'paayesh' (Bengali word for 'kheer').

I am reminded of the sight of some of the most beautiful women ever, draped in their newly acquired 'Dhakais' and 'Jamdanis', in pearls and flowers, with lace handkerchiefs and sling leather purses, of crisp kurtas and 'notoon' (Bengali for 'new') 'dhotis' for is Pujo after all,and it is the time to don new clothes and look as festive as you can ! And I as I run my fingers against the fabric of this beautiful saree bought by my father for me from Kolkatta during his recent visit it feels as though am there with my mother and him, participating in all the fun and excitement...

Living in a country like Korea, I have to admit, one is left wanting as far as celebrations for Pujo are concerned. But nothing stops one from creating a fuss about it at home, and am doing what I can to ensure the feeling of 'Pujo' embraces our home, right from painting my own version of the 'pratima' of Maa Durga on my canvas... being courageous enough and venturing into the kitchen to make some Sondesh...what Bengali worth her salt or 'sugar' in this case, would let Pujo go by without some 'mishti' in her house ! :-)

These are 'Norom Paak' Sondesh ('Norom' meaning soft in texture and 'paak' meaning cooked in Bengali) which I made earlier today...made with home made 'chhena' (paneer),sugar and some saffron and nuts thrown in. I didn't have the luxury of moulds and hence the shape (or the lack thereof).

Just like every other occasion, the various corners of my home have flowers to celebrate these festive days. My better half got these as a surprise, which made it even more special :-)

Here are some of them in a teapot that I have seen my parents enjoy their morning tea out of for as long as I can remember ! Seeing it here just makes me feel closer home :-)

Invoking Maa's blessings, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy festive season. There is so much to look forward to in the weeks ahead, I hope you feel the positive energy within your homes and within yourselves during these beautiful days as you celebrate them with your loved ones ! And to those of you heading to the 'pujo-pandals' over the next two days, have some extra mishti for me, and to the ladies out there, do smear some extra vermillion on your cheeks from me during 'shindoor-khela'. I shall remain content feeling the goosebumps on my skin, with thoughts of the distant echo of the 'dhak', of the fragrance of the camphor emanating out of the 'dhunuchi' as the coconut husk inside it burns above the layers of coal and the memories of the frenzy of the dance that accompanies it all...

Signing off feeling festive, actually make that 'poignantly festive' :-) Happy Durga Puja to all of you...until next time..take care :-)


  1. Great write-up as usual Karishma, you wax eloquent on memories don't you :-) And your painting of Maa Durga is a powerful one, love it.

    1. Thank you very much Ambika, always so good to see you here ! Waxing eloquent on memories, guilty as charged :)

  2. Beautiful post Karishma....aah your painting is so energetic and amazing.

    1. Thank you Nayana, am so happy you like the post and the painting both :)

  3. evocative images! and you know I love your painting of Maa.

    looking forward to your diwali posts.


    1. Thank you so much Deepa, feels great to hear this from you. Love.