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Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta Celebrates Saraswati Puja
BY SOUMITRA CHATTOPADHYAY, PH.D
Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) elected a new set of office bearers recently who took charge of the organization in the beginning of the year (2012). The first program presented by the new committee was the celebration of Saraswati Puja on January 28, 2012 at Norcross High School.
According to Hindu scriptures, Saraswati is the Goddess of Education, Learning and Performing Arts. Saraswati Puja is also known as “Basanta Panchami,” since it is celebrated on the fifth day of Spring in India. In India, there are six seasons. The spring season there starts in the middle of January (in the month of “Maagh” according to the Indian calendar)]. This year it was celebrated on that very auspicious day.
The puja was conducted by priest Dr. Sailendra Banerjee. It was followed by Pushpanjali (offering of flowers to the Goddess, amidst chanting of prayers) and Aarati. On this occasion, a number of tiny tots also offered their blessings to the Goddess of Education by writing their first lines using a chalk on a piece of slate (called “Hathe Kori”).
A sit-and-draw competition for children of different age groups was organized. Attendees also enjoyed and competed in a table tennis tournament. A sumptuous lunch followed which brought back memories of traditional Bengali cuisine. As with many events, attendees did not have to stand in line, but were treated to food served to them on their tables by a group of volunteers. Another new concept was introduced this year by the executive committee - to sell popular street foods which Bengalis crave.
“Gariahat” (to bring back fond and nostalgic memories to people from Kolkata, where “Gariahat” is a major shopping area) was BAGA’s own concept of creating a hub for stalls, activities, food, snacks, saris, jewelry and fun. Gariahat was a great novelty concept and a humble way for BAGA to collaborate, support, donate and raise funds for the community activities and events in 2012.
The cultural program that followed was coordinated (for the first time in its thirty three years of history) by second generation Indian Americans. This year the theme of the program was “Discovery of Bengal - A vibrant kaleidoscope of colors, creations, sights and sounds!” After the invocation of Saraswati and Brahma (with a dance and a couple of “slokas”), several songs and dances were performed. The program solely performed by second generation children of Bengali origin, mesmerized and transported back the audience to Bengal through a unique discovery of the aesthetic side of Bengali art. It celebrated the spirit of the Bengali community by transforming the stage into a kaleidoscope of colors, creations, sights and sounds showcasing noted Bengali artists, sculptors and painters. The show concluded with a promotional video created for BAGA by Dr. Raktim Sen called “Choto Bangla Gorechi” (we have created a small Bengal here).
The event was attended by more than three hundred fifty people from metro Atlanta area and neighboring states and was a great success. For more information about BAGA events, please visit www.baga.net or ‘like’ the group on Facebook.