Far away Finland may not figure in the list of the grand Pujas organised by Bengalis overseas, but it certainly tops the list when it comes to a true barir Pujo.
A small protima (idol), around 15-20 families and a decent crowd of barely 200 people at the most congregate to welcome Goddess Durga in this foreign soil. The evenings may not go as planned and the entertainment programme may conveniently be postponed to push in an adda session with friends and families over a much-cherished cup of tea.
Mothers would have their worries shed over a snippet of shared gossip while their children would be busy with crayons and watched over by older eyes. Men would talk of Calcutta and politics ~ not US health reforms, though ~ but Marxists and Congressmen of Bengal. Just when the debate reaches its climax, small children, in fairy-like habiliments, enter the scene. Wearing their mother’s sari, make-up and perhaps a headgear, they dance to the tune of the ever popular Aguner poroshmoni chhonao prane….
It all began when some enthusiastic Indians met on a Janmashtami evening and decided they should organise Durga Puja in Finland. As things were planned in a hurry, Durga Puja started in Finland for just one day. Well, that was a simple beginning. Gradually, more and more Bengalis joined in. “Every year, the number kept growing and now we have a three-day Puja,” said one of the organisers of Durga Puja in Finland.
The preparations for the Pujas begin in this part of the world almost two to three months before the festival. The Puja venue is booked, the souvenir ~ called Srijon ~ is compiled and published, and children and others rehearse their cultural programmes. The Durga idol, generally small, is from Kumartuli. The Puja in Finland is being organised for the past seven to eight years now. Local Bengalis organise the Puja though there is no formal Puja committee formed yet. “The idol is worshipped every year and we have not immersed it since the Puja started,” he said.
The number of Bengali families living in Finland is approximately 15 to 20. Besides, there are many Bengali students studying there who take an active part in the Puja preparations. Almost 30 to 40 Bengalis in Finland attend the Puja. And an interesting thing is that several Finnish people also attend.
There are also several Bengalis from Bangladesh who are a part of the fest. “Every year we have some special guests. Last year we had the privilege of having with us the Indian Ambassador in Finland,” said another Puja organiser.
The cultural programmes are saved for the second day of the Pujas when local talents and children take part. “A month before the Pujas, just stand quietly near the house of a Bengali living in Finland. The hustle and bustle inside would make it apparent that the Puja days are here again!” he added.