Toronto’s first barir pujo marks their fifth year celebration
Toronto: The Chakrabarti family of Greater Toronto Area (Brampton) started celebrating Durga Puja five years back to revive the lost traditions of the family and since then, earned the title of the first overseas family Durga Puja celebrations in Canada.
The family observes the festival with utmost purity and sanctity, following all the family tradition and the th Hindu almanac and stands as a benchmark among all the Durga Pujas observed in Toronto.
The husband-wife duo Suman Charaborti and Piyali Chakraborti, started the puja five years back with support from their childhood school friends from Kolkata's popular South Point High School.
“It was one day I just met our dada (priest Madhusudan Banerjee) over coffee and I told him how we celebrated Durga Puja in my home in Kolkata and how I miss it here in Toronto, despite so many pujas happening around us,” explains Suman Chakraborti, founder of Lundy Para Chakraborti Pujo as it is popularly known among the residents.
“The coffee meeting turned out to be so positive among both of us, that he agreed to do the puja for us here, and that's how we initially decided to start. But Durga Puja is not a simple puja like satyanarayan or lakshmi puja. We needed man-power and hence I reached out to my school buddies. In just one call we all gathered together and formed a core group that strengthened us to make it a big celebration for ourselves and people around us,” explains Suman.
“We start observing all rituals since Mahalaya. It might be surprising to many but we stop cooking non-veg food or food made with onion-garlic from Mahalaya itself as the urn of Devi Durga is established since then,” explains Piyali Chakraborti.
With COVID around, the family puja still gathered a good response among the close friends and circles.
"Our doors were open to all for the past years minus the COVID. Last year we did it among our close circle only, while the year before we had over 300 people visiting us and having bhog prasad here. This year, we followed all the COVID protocol and limited our gathering to close friends, families and a few close acquaintances,” states Suman Chakraborti.
“Our South Point gang of friends and their spouses worked hard in decorating the house, especially the basement where the puja is taking place. Some of us cooked the bhog prashad, and the khichuri for all,” adds Piyali. “Our menu was different everyday, following the sattwik style of Hindu eating, we made sure there is a variety of palatable food that we can serve to our guests.”
The family and friends created a nice wall of memories on the stairs to remember the first year and the consecutive years of the Puja. Apart from the ritualistic traditions, the family also maintained the cultural traditions associated with the Puja, which was missing in many pujas of Toronto, especially due to COVID.
There were dhaak and dance, 108 lamps and fresh lotus for Sandhi Puja, adda and nostalgia all flowed in the right proportion while the Goddess was worshipped in the Chakraborti residence. Be it the Sandhi pujo, or the Nabami evening adda, or the Dashami sindur khela, the Chakrabortis and their friends brought back a lot of nostalgia for Bengalis in Canada.
“This is my second time visiting the Lundy Para Pujo with my family, and I must say this is exceptional, revives a lot of our childhood memories that were kind of buried for the past twenty years being abroad, away from Durga Puja in Kolkata,” says Sanjukta Chakrabarti and Bob Sarkar.
For Meghna Ghosh, a 20 year old with Bengali roots, “I have been to Kolkata during Durga Puja a few times. I remember the festive spirit there and loved it when we went. I missed it many times when I chatted with my grandparents and families in India. But now because of this Pujo here, I am enjoying every bit of it, though away from Kolkata.”
(Images by Saikat Panja)