BAGA fêted the twenty-eighth year of its biggest annual celebration, the Durga Puja (also known as Dussehra in some parts of India), on September 29th, 30th and October 1st, 2006, at Shamrock Middle School in Decatur. Hundreds of devotees participated to celebrate the symbolic victory of good over evil (Ma Durga destroying Mahisasur, the demon). The celebration that started in one Atlanta resident's garage in 1979 now attracts a large number of local devotees, as well as from neighboring states such as Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, etc. About eight hundred participants joined this year's puja celebrations.
Following the first day of puja on Friday evening, dinner was served. Although devotees went home quite late that night, they enthusiastically took part in the puja early the next day. Sounds of dhak-s and dhol-s brought back a lot of memories from back home and people danced to their beats during the arati-s. There was an art competition for children for all ages. After lunch, the first segment of cultural functions was presented by local artists and a guest artist hailing from Ohio, Ms. Nibedita Chatterjee. The finale of this part of the program was a well-choreographed fusion program by local talents that blended Indian mythology and modern-day rendition of "shiva" stotras. After the evening arati-s and dinner, two famous artists from Kolkata, Mr. Shibaji Chatterjee and his wife, a famous singer on her own merit, Mrs. Arundhati Home Chowdhury enthralled the audience with their renditions of old and new Bengali songs. On the last day of the celebration, Sunday, when the symbolic puja ritual of bisarjan or immersion was over, a typical Bengalee tradition of "sindur-khela" was initiated where married women took part in wishing one another a long and happy married life by smearing each other’s forehead and face with sindur or vermillion. The festivities concluded with the final segment of the cultural program where another famous Bengali singer from Kolkata, Mr. Raghab Chatterjee, performed. Groups of people, young and old alike, danced on the floor to some of his tunes.
Local businesses set up stalls on all three days selling salwar-suits, saris, dhoti-kurtas, lehenga-cholis, ornaments, CD-DVD-VCD-cassettes, and all kinds of things. Local organizations distributed flyers announcing upcoming desi programs, and businesses hung posters and banners. A local bank even promoted their wares by giving participants a chance to take a picture with a life size cutout of the Big B, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. "Pratichi - The West", BAGA’s annual literary publication, was distributed to all the attendees. It contained articles from well-known writers from India in the fields of literature, movies and sports as well as contributions from local talents. The youngest contributor was a five year old and the oldest one was a ninety eight year old retired scientist - amazing!
All in all, this was a memorable puja for all those who attended this year. BAGA conveys best wishes to all on this auspicious season of Durga Puja, Deepavali and Ramadan.