One of the most sacred and eagerly awaited festivals for Bengalis is the celebration of Durga Puja. Away from India, for the Bengali Diaspora, even in New Zealand, this celebration is a “returning home” to strong memories for the young and old of the traditions passed down for millennia.

“Ma Durga is here visiting us at Glenavon School in Blockhouse Bay with her children,” said a devotee when Indian Weekender visited the celebrations.

In the picture, which captures the love and dedication of the people who put together the decorations and the three day festival, are the children of Durga: Ganesh the God of wisdom, on the far left, Laxmi the Goddess of wealth, in the center as always is Ma Durga, to the right Saraswati the Goddess of learning and music, and finally Durga’s son Kartik, God of courage.

Whilst puja and prayers were offered in the mornings, the evenings were open for the cultural and entertaining programmes. Performers of all ages entertained and rendered delightful presentations.

The youngest performer was 3 years old and the oldest was 66. There were repeated calls for encores, as the participants had practiced strenuously for months to render their peak performance during the celebration.

The festival concluded on Sunday coinciding with Goddess Durga returning to her husband’s abode. The evening cultural programme was a big hit because the theme was cross-cultural and resonated with the increasingly multi-cultural audience.

It was complemented by the outstanding community meal prepared lovingly and enjoyed by all present.