How Indians united to celebrate Hungary’s first Durga puja, Navaratri and Golu simultaneously | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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How Indians united to celebrate Hungary’s first Durga puja, Navaratri and Golu simultaneously

In Durga’s debut sojourn, the city of Budapest witnessed India’s unity in diversity and many Hungarians took part in the celebrations initiated by three individuals.

kolkata Updated: Oct 10, 2017 15:53 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
For Bengali youths, especially those living far away from home to pursue higher studies in Hungary, the puja offered a major opportunity to return to their roots.
For Bengali youths, especially those living far away from home to pursue higher studies in Hungary, the puja offered a major opportunity to return to their roots. (Photo courtesy Debapriya Mitra)

Two months ago, when Hindus across India were planning their biggest annual festivals, a globe-trotting homemaker from Bengal, a restaurant owner with roots in Punjab and a man from Himachal Pradesh who runs stores sat for a meeting hundreds of miles away from their homeland.

The city was Budapest, the capital of Hungary, one of the European nations where only a few people of Indian origin live as permanent citizens.

The outcome of the meeting, however, left a mark forever. Between September 25 and 30, Hungary witnessed not only its first Durga puja but also a simultaneous celebration of Navratri by people from north, west and central Indian states and also Golu, the century-old festival of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The exquisite display of idols at the Golu festival drew a lot of attention (Photo courtesy Confluence of Cultures, Hungary)

Significantly, the festivals were all held under one roof and in accordance with the Indian almanac. This, the organisers proudly claim, never happened in any other country. And, the entire event was managed by women.

“Kulvinder Singh Jham, or Kukiji as people lovingly call him, offered the banquet hall of Maharaja, his restaurant, as the venue. And, Santosh Sharma supplied all the provisions from his stores. Without them, this attempt would never succeed,” Aparajita Dutta, the Bengali homemaker who landed in Hungary with her husband barely a year ago, told HT.

Kulvinder Singh Jham offered the banquet hall of Maharaja, his restaurant, as the venue for the three festivals. (Photo courtesy Kulvinder Singh Jham)

“Prabal, my husband, is a top executive with an Indian MNC. Realising our desperation he flew in a priest from Kolkata. Anindya, our son, came down from the USA to help us out. Santosh Ji even sponsored one of the idols that were brought from Kolkata. The rest of us pulled in our resources. Dashami, the last day of the festival, was celebrated at the Indian embassy,” said Dutta who hails from Siuri town in Bengal’s Birbhum district.

Enthused by the response Dutta named the initiative ‘Confluence of Cultures’ although the maximum footfall never crossed 180 owing to the miniscule presence of Indians in Budapest and the rest of the country.

Malay Sarkar, a doctor who settled down in Hungary 45 years ago and never witnessed a puja in Bangladesh in all these years was invited to inaugurate the puja. (Photo courtesy Confluence of Cultures, Hungary)

“This was a unique experience for me. The Durga puja was inaugurated by Malay Sarkar, a doctor who settled down in Hungary 45 years ago and never witnessed a puja in his motherland, Bangladesh, in all these years,” said Debapriya Mitra who arrived in Budapest in 2016 to pursue a degree in film studies.

“We all rose above regional feelings and linguistic differences to make this happen. It worked like magic. The Golu and Navratri celebrations were spectacular. And, the food was delicious,” Mitra added.

Aparajita Dutta (right) with her husband Prabal Dutta and son Anindya at the venue. (Photo courtesy Aparajita Dutta)

“The coming together of people from all corners of my country, a few inquisitive Hungarians joining us, a Bengali couple coming down from Norway on hearing the news et al made this an experience of a lifetime. Budapest became the melting pot of Indian cultures for five days,” said Debomit Chakraborty, another student from Bengal.

The ladies took charge of the kitchen for five days. (Photo courtesy Confluence of Cultures)

“In America, Britain and Canada, where people of Indian origin have significant presence, Durga puja is performed only during weekends. But we boldly followed the actual dates mentioned in almanac,” quipped Mitra.

On the evening of Dashami on September 30, when Kolkatans crowded the banks of Hooghly to bid farewell to Durga and her children, a handful of Bengalis assembled by the Danube. They had left the idols at Maharaja because local laws wouldn’t allow immersion. So, they released in the waters a ‘ghot,’ a small earthen pitcher that carried the spirit of the lion rider down the old river.