Bengalis, Gujaratis enjoy festive spirit in City




Palace grounds is transformed into a dance floor for nine nights.It is Navaratri...it's reverberating with orchestra music and dance and dandies (bamboo sticks) from September 19. "Navaratri is the time for the young to dress up with colourful chania cholis, sway with garbas and Dandiya raas. I just can't wait to don my dance attire, for which I have been waiting the past year," says Binni, a Gujarati youth for whom Bangalore is home now.

Bengalis celebrating Durga Puja for six days from September 23 - culminating in Bijoya Dasami - are high on new clothes, good food, entertainment and lots of fun. The Bengalee Association, celebrating their golden jubilee of Durga Puja, is upbeat. Says Achintya Lal Roy, President of the Association, "We plan to play a distinctive role in the society and take up inter-cultural and socio-economic role." They have identified a slum in Whitefield where they plan to educate the children.

Recession? What's that?
Recession does not seem to have affected the three lakh plus Bengali community, which comprises a cross section of society, many of whom are professionals, artisans etc. Pujas are added by the year .They are celebrating 38 pujas this year. While the Association Puja is held in a pandal in RBNMS grounds near Ulsoor lake, others are held at Jayamahal,  Indiranagar, Koramangala, Malleswaram Canara Union Hall, JP Nagar, Whitefield Cultural Association, RT Nagar, and Sanjay Nagar, Banaswadi , Marathahalli Bridge, Kaggadaspura, and five pujas in the Air Force.  
Interestingly, the pujas are attended by Biharis, Oriyas, Assamese and people from other areas. Shaila, a Bihari, cannot but perform Ashtami puja on September 26. "We have made elaborate arrangements," says an organiser.

   Nachiketa, the famous singer from Kolkata, regaled the Bengalees in Ulsoor on Wednesday night. Several cultural maestros from Kolkata, and local talents in theatre and music enthralled them.

"My mother is thrilled at the thought of attending puja in our neighbourhood," says Devasri of  Kaggadaspura.

 


Home away from home

"Puja brings us closer to home," say  Kartik, Abhijit, Gautam Srikant and other artisans who replicate their village Puja in Sahakarnagar, at a puja performed by goldsmith Ananda Karmakar. He has been performing puja for the past five years, allowing his artisans to showcase their talent.

Nizam's chicken rolls, Eelish maachch (Hilsa fish) and variety of sweets are the star attraction of the Ulsoor Puja .Dabelis, papdino loat, gaathia, jalebi, fafda and many other traditional delicacies await Gujaratis in Palace grounds where the 70-year-old Vaishnav Samaj, Gandhinagar, is hosting the main garba festival.

Garbas are also held at the Chandramouleshwar temple, Sadashivnagar, Jayanagar, Samyukta Gujarati Samaj's Sardar Patel hall, Vasantnagar, Swaminarayan trust.
Ashok Dani, a three-term BMP councilor, and President of the Vaishnav Samaj, the oldest body here, says that the authorities have co-operated with them to allow the garbas till 2 am. "We can't start before 10 pm, as no one comes before that."
Swaying to Bhupat Dani and Dr Hitesh Mehta's orchestras has been a treat for the youngsters. "We enjoy dancing to their tune, as the ones from Mumbai charge a lot," say Sonal and her friends. Their parents are liberal about garbas. "The terminal exams have been a hurdle for many of us," she says.



The economics of garba do not seem to affect most Gujarati youth. A nine-night garba bash could easily cost up to Rs 10,000. Says Gunjan Shah, who provides dresses on rent, "A simple dress for men comprising Kediya and Patiala costs Rs 500 per night. Accessories, food and daily tickets of Rs 150 are the additional costs."
For women, Meenaben Shah designs chania-cholis and sells dresses costing up to Rs 4,000.  Not all can afford them. People like Seema bought herself a simple one at a cost of Rs 350. "But that's not enough, as jewllery is prohibitively priced, but I don't mind investing in."

"Taara vina shyam ekaldi laage …." "Ranglo jamya kalindina ghat …" are some of the garbas sung at the functions.

Tejaswini Bagadia, who was born and bred in Bangalore, is an enthusiast and is involved with several mahila Mandals. She is nostalgic about the traditional garbas. Garba derived from "Garbha" meaning womb is primarily a fertility right.

 "Modernity has not eaten into our traditions. We still perform matajina garbas like "Maa pava te gadhthi utariya  maa kali re … We follow the traditions of fasting and sing the arti after performing five garbas. "

Gujaratis, who mainly comprise the business community, have been in Bangalore for over a century.

They were earlier based in Chickpet and Gandhinagar. Sultanpet was the venue for the first garba almost a century ago. Women venerated Mataji and held the garba in the afternoon. Later in the evening, by men performed the garba.
Balaji school in Chickpet was the venue at that point. Gujaratis have since spread out, and now garbas are held all over the City.

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