For Bengalis around the world, this is a much awaited season. It is a time for prayer, feasting and fasting. While for the Muslims it is the holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan as it is called in some parts of the world), the Hindus are celebrating the Durga Puja. Understandably therefore, Bangali bloggers are talking about religion, the various practices, their significance and the emotions they evoke.
An integral part of Ramzan is the ‘Sawm’, which the Bengalis refer to as the ‘Roja’. Fazle Ilahi traces the roots of the word ‘Roja’ and explains the religious significance of the practice of fasting. Sayeed Abdullah talks about the season being a time for self evaluation, scrutiny and purification. However, Ramzan is also a month of getting together in the evenings with friends and family for the Iftaar meal. In the current times, unfortunately Iftaar has been commercialised to some extent and Addabaj wonders if overzealous feasting is overcoming the quiet introspective nature of Ramzan.
For the average Bengali, the cultural festivities of the Durga Puja tend to outweigh the religious significance, though the religious rituals are performed diligently. In Kolkata, the ‘baroari’ (public) pujas today are more about expressing artistic creativity and tend to follow ‘themes’. There are also awards instituted by corporate houses and hence there is an element of competitiveness induced. The outcome is that the visitors to the various ‘pandals'(venues) is awestruck by the innovative lighting, hall decor and the images of the goddess. Bongonari talks of the inimitable joy that the Bengali experiences with the coming of the Pujas and Tushon reminiscences about the spirit of nostalgia that is evoked. Of course, as Bongopondit points out, this spirit is perhaps at its strongest among the Bengalis, spending the season far away from Bengal. For them, despite there being pujas being celebrated in their countries of residence, it is perhaps just not the same as being able to celebrate it with friends and family back home.