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Now, a London techie Durga Puja!

A group of Bengali techies, communication engineers and software specialists have banded together a Durga Puja.
IANS | By Dipankar De Sarkar, London
UPDATED ON OCT 21, 2007 12:36 PM IST

More than 40 years after the first small Durga Puja celebrations in London, a group of Bengali techies - communication engineers and software specialists - have banded together to establish London's latest, and most professionally-run Durga Puja.

The Panchamukhee Durga Utsav - so-called because it was begun by five friends - was inaugurated only last year but is already turning out to be a hot favourite among the tens of thousands of Bengalis in London.

It is the newest of London's 20-odd Durga Pujas, and organised entirely by young Bengali technology professionals who have migrated to Britain relatively recently - within the last decade.

With a core group of some 70 volunteers - professionals working in London for companies as diverse as IBM, Carphone Warehouse and Mahendra Tech - this puja is the spiritual child of globalisation, its foot-soldiers those Indians whose high skills in software engineering are sought after around the world today.

This is a puja that is organised with the help of power point presentations and that entertains with rock bands.

The first Durga Puja in London took place in 1963 - it was planned by a veteran Bengali newspaper editor and is still the largest celebrated in Britain. The so-called Camden Town Puja - after the north central London neighbourhood where it is held - can attract up to 3,000 people every day from across Britain and even Europe, says its general-secretary Shyamal Mukherjee.

Snaking queues start to form outside its doors hours before prayer every evening and its doors are manned by burly bouncers who let in eager worshippers in batches at a time.

Its size is precisely what got the five Bengali techies thinking some years ago.

"It was too big, too impersonal. We went there every year of course, but we also wanted something different," Saurab Basu, a telecom engineer associated with the puja, told IANS. "Basically, we really missed the homely atmosphere of our Kolkata neighbourhood puja, I guess."

So they all chipped in some money, bought a large idol made in Kumartuli in Kolkata and shipped it over to London.

"We held our first puja last year. We meant it to be something for just our own families, but it was so successful, we had to choose a larger venue this year," he added.

Every evening through the five days of festivities this week, hundreds of Bengalis have turned up at the new venue - a large suburban hall called the Harrow Arts Centre - not only to offer prayers, but also to enjoy concerts.

The line-up for the cultural evenings has included everything from Tagore operas performed by local artistes to concerts by rock bands from Kolkata - and they are clearly the highlight of this particular London puja.

"We bring in our professionalism into this venture," said Basu. "Our programmes are discussed in detail. Some of us make power point presentations and we then take it further. From tomorrow we will start to discuss next year's puja."

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