Where Pujas are a fest

A 21st century Mahisasurmardini, a trilingual recitation feat, folk tunes from rural Bengal, Bollywood extravaganza ~ all this is on the cards this Pujas in Moscow.
Over the years, Puja celebrations in Russia have turned into a fest where people of various cultures meet and exchange greetings. The fest has gone beyond satisfying the yearnings for a barir pujo far away from home. Twenty years ago some people came together and dreamt of a Puja in Moscow. And first times are always special.
“The novelty of Puja in matushka Rossia, the two priests who were specially flown in from Kolkata and the immense excitement while awaiting the very first protima (idol) are unforgettable,” said Mr Nitin Aurangabadkar, general secretary of the Moscow Durga Puja committee. Swami Lokeswarananda of the Ramakrishna Mission inaugurated the first Puja. Since then Swami Jyotirupananda, who is the founder of Moscow Ramakrishna Math, has been conducting the Puja and is the president of our Moscow Durga Puja Committee, he said. Reminiscing the Pujas in Moscow in late 90s, Mr Tapan Chakraborty said that having visited or participated in many Puja celebrations in and outside India, the experience of Moscow Durga Puja is unique and unparalleled. The strict observance of Puja rituals, under the supervision of the Maharaj, would convert even an atheist. It’s like a barir pujo expanded into a community one, without digressing even one bit from the main task of worshipping the goddess. There are many who very willingly share anecdotes about their Puja experiences. Several people who have to stay there just for a day or two go back with memories of the Pujas spent there. “Our  first participation in the Pujas was in 1998 when my wife was given the task of preparing some bhog on a specified day. It was both nervousness and excitement for my wife who started the task very early morning. Transporting the bhog over 25 km on snowy roads was also not in my past driving experience. But, it all went on smoothly,” said Mr Chakraborty.
The entire Indian community of Moscow comes together for the celebrations. The Puja is organised and funded on a voluntarily basis by the Indian community.
Russian friends who adore India, find the colourful festivals fascinating, who after pratima darshan queue up for bhog and prasad. There are Russian academicians, Indologists and people specializing in oriental culture make it a point to visit the puja every year.

Soma Basu

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