Sketches of an Indian Goddess, and Maison de l’Inde

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Here is Goddess Durga, beloved to Bengalis of India. Every October has a week long celebration dedicated to her.

Here are some simple and quick sketches I had made in 2015, depicting her as a young girl. In this sketch above, I have her holding a Shiuli flower, a delicately shaped, small and fragrant flower. The shiuli plant starts to flower around October in India, hence this flower is strongly associated with the celebrations of Goddess Durga.

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Goddess Durga reposing in a lotus flower

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If you see showers of stars across the sky, you will know Goddess Durga is in a playful mood

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Beautiful flowery swing

Today I attended the seventh day of the Durga Puja celebrations in Maison de l’Inde, located within the campus grounds of Cité Université, in Paris. If you walk inside, and walk up the first floor, you enter a big room where the celebrations are held year after year in this very room. I asked some of the senior Bengalis around the room how long has Durga Puja been celebrated in Paris? ‘Since the last 30 years’ I receive the reply.

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I can tell you that the ladies you see seated close to the idols, wearing saris, these ladies work hard year after year to produce equally beautiful, and as authentic Durga Pujas as Bengalis have it back home. They constantly move around making sure everyone is OK and enjoying themselves. One more thing : ANYONE can enter this place for free. There is no charge, or any kind of obligation to pay. I see many curious visitors, French and other nationalities coming in here, and usually enjoying themselves, admiring the colorful saris, and the relaxed atmosphere. In the evenings, there are usually traditional dances, or Bengali songs sung, that lend to a very cultural atmosphere.

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Nom Nom! This is called ‘bhog’. It’s not the name of a recipe. It’s the term used for food that is prepared for lunch time, during the days of Durga Puja, at the place of worship itself. Here at the Maison de l’Inde, yes, ANYONE can just come in and have this plate of heaven. Bhog is always vegetarian food.

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I had the opportunity to watch this Bengali gentleman, an active participant of the Durga Puja, make pulao, in this rice cooker. ( It was a great chance for me to finally learn the recipe myself!)

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Rice, butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and rasins. And of course, finally add water that is double the quantity of rice, and shut the lid and let it cook about 15 minutes.

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Everyone busy eating the plastic containers distributed that had the cut fruits ( pieces of apple, banana, pomegranate, grapes, halwa) to everyone.

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Here is the Shiuli flower again, just making sure you remember that sweet little flower! 🙂 And here is my papercut Butterfly Girl, surrounded by shiulis.

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