Durga Puja Festival celebrated virtually in Sydney

By Manju Mittal

Durga Puja is also known as ”˜Durgotsav’. This festival epitomises the victory over evil. Durga puja is celebrated every year by every Bengali households during Navratri, in India and now in Sydney in great fanfare by the Sydneysiders and Bengali Association of NSW. The Durga Puja festival is an event that is attended with great enthusiasm and belief. It is one of biggest festivals of the Indian subcontinent here. Durga Puja celebrations bring together friends and families, just the way their peers back home hold it from traditional food to classical performances, the festive fervour is familiar, and grander than ever.

Pic Courtesy: Sumit Pal

Durga Puja and Bengalis are inseparable, far away from home in a foreign land, they connect with each other. Bengalis stop at nothing when it comes to celebrating the homecoming of Maa Durga. The pandemic has impacted not only the worshippers but also those who depend upon the festivities as an occasion of meet and greet. Women dress up in all their glory in traditional saris, and family too. Traditional and virtual celebrations of Durga Puja in Sydney has this year been reinvented amid the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Swagata Das (in the middle) with Indranil and Jane Wilkins

Swagata Das, President of one of the Bengali organisation in Sydney ‘Swagatam Group’, said: “This year everyone has been enjoying the festival from their homes as we have been sharing the Zoom link and Facebook live sessions with our members especially elderly people also joined us this year virtually,”

“Cultural programs were held online where live and recorded programmes by children and adults were shown where they participated with great enthusiasm.”

Some diehard devotees still wanted to come physically and take part and pay their obeisance to Devi Durga and do the puja although Swagatam Group entertained two people at a time to have darshan with priest conducting puja due to Covid restrictions.

A dinner organised to celebrate Durga puja at Dural’s Sirtulo restaurant the theme this year was ”˜Creativity, humanity and precautionary steps’ conducted by the Halder’s of Australia aimed to reflect optimism in the time of pandemic. They have also launched their own, ”˜Durga & Dhaki’  social media Campaign for spring 2020 to encourage everyone to make Australian environment plastic free by picking up plastic bottles for recycling   and they are requesting to donate to Dhakis ( folk drum players) of Bengal, India as they are affected by the pandemic in Kolkata.

Jane Wilkins from Halder family is proud to state that, “We are delighted to be part of a multicultural Durga Puja photo shoot this spring. Our photo shoot includes people from diverse backgrounds such as African, Bengalis, Indians and Nepalese to uphold the core essence of multicultural Australia.”

Talking about the celebrations going Virtual amid the pandemic, Indranil Halder, one of the well known Bengali community member in Sydney extended his sincere thanks to all the devotees, members and supporters for the virtual celebration success of Durga Puja in 2020.

It has been a strange year for festivals; one of my favourite traditions, that occurs on the last day of Durga Puja is Sindoor Khela, it is one of the traditions where women smear each other with red powder, which didn’t happen this year, worshippers are hopeful that next year the festival will be celebrated with great fervour and aspiring to bid the deadly Corona virus good bye for ever.


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