# Manama: This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the Bengali community’s Durga Pujo in Bahrain. In what environment and how exactly is this worship? How did it start? When and how did the first idol worship begin in Bahrain? A Bengali resident of Bahrain told about such known and unknown information Nandita Chatterjee.
When it comes to Pujo in Bahrain, first we have to talk about the country of Bahrain. Bahrain is a small country in the Middle East surrounded by the sea. The Middle East is a picture of a troubled country. But the environment in Bahrain is just the opposite. Those of us who grew up watching the processions, mass rallies, roadblocks, strikes in Kolkata, find the country very strange to them when they first come. I think, what kind of country is this where today-tomorrow-tomorrow cannot be recognized separately. Then gradually the country became a safe haven for homeless people like us.
Secularism is a very familiar word to Indians. Because we are a constitution-recognized secular country. But in reality it is a reflection of how much. That question is different. Bahrain does not paint a picture of its own tolerance or tolerance of other religions. But those of us who live in Bahrain understand its tolerance. Small country, but people of many tribes of the world live here. Everyone gets a chance to practice their own culture. As we get the opportunity to do Durgapujo.
Our idea of Durga Puja started from 1975. That year a little girl dressed up as Durga at the Vijaya rally. In 1967, some Bengalis thought about what it would be like to start Durga Pujo here. Then in 1969, with the courage of some people, the fear of some people, Durga Puja of Bengalis started in this Muslim country. Mother’s cutout was made on plywood in 1989-90. The plaster of Paris was erected in 1999. That first idolatry in Bahrain began with the Bengalis holding hands. Later Indians from other provinces followed it.
Pottery was famous in the four thousand year old Dilmun civilization. After teaching the potters of Bahrain from the early nineties, they started making mother’s pujo lamps, incense sticks and millennial lamps. A strange combination of two ancient civilizations took place. Partition, global recession, unemployment broke the joint families of Bengalis. Today, 90% of Bengalis enjoy joint family through TV serials. However, we are some lucky Bengalis who have built a joint family like ours in other countries. This family is not a house, it is built around a club. That’s why mothers and aunts don’t talk in the sun on its verandah or pickles or pills dry on the roof. The younger members do not listen to the stories surrounding Grandma. The youngest of these families grow up alone in the corner of the room, with a computer or smartphone.
Our family takes shape around various events. Durga Puja is the biggest event. Whether it is school, college, office holiday or not, our worship is done according to the daily date and proper rules. If there is pujo very early in the morning, the girls wake up at night and organize pujo. Before our pujo, the theme was not so popular. There are no dazzling pendulums. There is no smell of cashew flower or hyacinth shaking the head.
Our members beautifully decorated the pujo stage of the ceremony hall with their own sense of beauty. In the last few years, of course, we have also added themes. In 2017, the theme of Pujo Mandap was Bengali wedding ceremony. And the theme of 2019 is Gram Bangla. We created the image of rural Bengal with various elements like artist Jamini Roy’s mother’s face, children’s easy-reading pictures, rural Bengal huts, tulsi mancha, palm leaf fan, etc.
When our pujo starts from the 6th Bodhan, it is as if a piece of Calcutta enters our ceremony hall. The smoke of incense, the sound of drums, the sound of brass bells bring back the days we left behind. The days we want to reflect on our children, the next generation. Our unpretentious, homely pujo brings splendor to our girls’ extraordinary, impeccable decorations. The boys also decorate themselves like themselves. But the bright presence of the girls makes them a bit dull.
Every day from the sixth to the tenth of Pujo we enjoy separately. Bodhan of Sasthi, Adhivas of Saptami, Kala Bou Snan, Anjali of Ashtami, 108 Padma and Pradeep of Sandhipujo, Dhunuchi dance of Ninth and Sindur Khela of Dashmi – keep us busy in worshiping our mother for a few days. With proper rules, devotion, boundless devotion and heartfelt love, we invoke our mother and say: Rupang Dehi Jayang Dehi / Yasho Dehi Dbisho Jahi.
In the game of Dashmi Sindur, every one of our women becomes outstanding in personality and beauty. This is the day when every woman becomes a mother and a wife, leaving behind the idea of ’Look Ying’ in today’s world. Their only prayer to the mother is that their husbands and children be well throughout the year. Our pujo ends with a children’s program on the evening of Dashmi, Anandamela, exchange of greetings, hugs and a feast. In this context, it has to be said that we can be on par with any pujo in the country in the menu of delicious bhog prasad and pratibela.
In exile, people look for people in their own language. The expatriate asks in his mind, “Where can I find the wire, the man in my mind is Ray”. In Rabindranath’s words, his answer matches – “I have people in my soul, so Harry is everywhere”. The Bengali social family of Bahrain stands on this exploration and perception of the human mind, not just the expatriate mind. It is this realization that strengthens the bonds of our family flowing with the coming and going of new and old members.
Photo and text: Nandita Chattopadhyay