Wisconsin Bengali community's Durga Puja 2007
Keeping spiritual and cultural tradition alive
By Heidi M. Pascual
 "Puja" means worship, and "Durga Puja" is the
worship of Durga, the 10-armed goddess who slew the
evil Mahishasur. For the Hindus all over the world,
particularly those from West Bengal, Durga Puja is their
most important festival.
  In Wisconsin, the Bengali Association of Madison and
the Bengali Cultural Society of Milwaukee joined hands
to celebrate their 24th annual Durga Puja on October 20
at Verona Middle School. On the stage was built an
elaborate  "
pandal," a work of art in itself, with Durga on
the center, standing over a lion mount and the slain
Mahishasur, and wielding 10 weapons in her 10 hands.
The
pandal, colored in gold over lotus petals on top,
was the religious center of the event, where the
attendees offered their prayers and flowers. There were
ritual dance worships called
aarati to the rhythmic beats
of the drums.
  The day started with prayers led by Raghuchandra
Bhatt, a priest from Hindu Temple of Wisconsin,
followed by flower offerings to the gods (
Pushpanjali),
and then food offering and for blessing (
Prasad).
  According to Saswati Bhattacharya, Durga Puja is also
a celebration of good  over evil. "In a way, we can think
about this
  The cultural program, dedicated to Ma Durga, consisted of musical numbers, poetry, and a skit, all in the
tradition of West Bengal and other areas also celebrating Durga Puja every year. It was both a spiritual
gathering and a celebration of culture in Wisconsin.
being or this woman who has the capability of working as 10, and she
is adorned with all the weapons needed to take out the evil,"
Bhattacharya explained. "The evil in this case is Mahishasur, who
could take different forms, and one form he has taken in this
particular case is mahish, meaning buffalo, and asur, meaning the
evil."
  Mahishasur, the demon, unleashed all his powers so he could rule
the world. To defeat him, the gods created a woman (Devi/Durga),
gave her weapons necessary to fight him and gave her powers. "Lord
Shiva gave her the trishul or the trident,"Bhattacharya said, "Indra gave
her the thunderbolt; and a few others like Chandra, gave her beauty,
so Devi was so beautiful. Devi was   then sent to fight the evil.
Mahishasur, who could take on many forms, first tried to woo Devi by
his [good looks]. Devi said, 'I'm way superior than you.' So he kept on
taking different forms, and finally when he turned into Mahish, Devi
actually killed him."
From top) Worship
dances; Anupama and
Saswati Bhattacharya
(Above) Sougata Bardhan, Prasenjit
Sengupta, Jayati Lodh, and Sruti
Banerjee
(From top) Dance and songs for Durga