Wednesday, May 7, 2014

[Indian Culture Workshop 2013-2014] Session 4: Durga Puja, at YMT Henry Leong Community Centre

Session #4 Durga Puja, at YMT Henry Leong Community Centre
Speaker: Mr. Sanjib Sengupta, The Hong Kong Bengali Association

Have you ever wondered how the Hindus celebrate their festivals? Why their gods and goddesses look so fierce, and have different gestures, facial expressions? Why are they painted in varies colors? For session four, the Indian Culture Workshop participants, together with Dr. Tam joined the Durga Puja celebration with the help of the Hong Kong Bengali Association.

Durga Puja is the festival of the Goddess Durga. The worship of Goddess Durga is very popular among Hindus. Other than the name Durga, she is also named differently in her various avatars, or forms. She is known as the divine spouse of Lord Shiva and the mother of two sons—Ganesha and Karttikeya, as well as the daughter Jyoti.

Goddess Durga is shown in a female form, wearing red clothes. The red color symbolizes action and red clothes signify that She is always busy fighting evil and protecting mankind from the pain and suffering caused by evil forces. Thus, She represents the power of the Supreme Being preserving moral order and righteousness in the creation. Durga, who is also called the Divine Mother, protects mankind from evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.

The Hong Kong Bengali Association organized the Durga Puja at YauMaTei Henry Leong Community Centre. Like in India, the devotees built their own altar and the Durga statue. The Hong Kong Bengali Association even invited a brahma (the high priest) from India to host and chant for the festival. Due to the limitation and regulation in Hong Kong, the statue may not be as humongous as those in India, but they still try to preserve every bit of their worship and celebration rituals.

The celebration of Durga Puja in Hong Kong usually lasts for two days. Religious and worship rituals with the priest are on the first half of each day. After the free lunch sections, children would stay and practice for their own talent show in the evening. And for the second half of the last day, priest will chant and devotees would celebrate with “color throwing.” Yet unlike in India that the statue of Puja would be smashed and submerged into the sea, the statue in Hong Kong would be cleaned up, stored, and re-used in the next year’s Puja.  

Religion, food, and festival provide a sense of comfort for the overseas Indians and bonding opportunities at both religious and social levels. After the rituals, followers would be served lunch catered by the female devotees, or local food catering in our case. Males serve the food while females and children gather and enjoy the food. The free food serving here serves as a communal bonding purpose for the Indian community in Hong Kong.  Likewise, the celebration of the festival provides the community a place for the Indians to reconnect with their own society, religion, and community. 
Mr. Sanjib Sengupta (standing) explaining the history behind the Durga Puja—the annual festival worshipping the Hindu goddess Durga.

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