Can you think of Durga Puja without Bengali tea, Singara (samosa), pathar mangsho (mutton) or Polao?
No, one cannot. That is why non-resident Indians in the Netherlands feel something’s amiss from their celebrations. During Puja, their food will be cooked with canned meat, and the exotic Bengali delicacy Malaikari will be made from shrimp (instead of the local prawns from waterbodies in and around Kolkata).
As Covid-19 ravaged Europe last year, Anandadhara, a Bengali organisation, managed to fly a big Durga idol from Kolkata’s Kumartuli. Unlike in Kolkata where pandals are erected in every locality, in Amsterdam, Anandadhara celebrates in a community home.
Masks are no longer required in the Netherlands, as advised by the government. But Anandadhara has urged visitors from Monday onwards to enter the hall wearing masks and carry Covid vaccination certificate. Apart from the other international vaccines, Covishield is being allowed for the Indians who are touring the Netherlands now. The five-day Durga Puja, Bengali’s biggest festival, would start Monday with Mahasasthi. In Kolkata, the festivals span almost seven days. But in the Netherlands, the few-hundred-Bengali-community, who are mostly employed in the IT and teaching professions, would restrict it to four days only. Vijayadashami would be the fifth day when the Puja will end.
Said Sudipta Laskar, an IT professional, “Our Durga Puja is in the fifth year. Like every time, this time, too, there will be various cultural programmes. The main attractions would be dances, songs, recitations, sit-down competitions for children, etc. There is also a beauty contest, music, dance competitions for adults.” The most striking attraction will be "Pujor Tilottama" which is basically a selfie contest.
Dipanwita Mukherjee and Dolly Devi, who are in charge of the decorations, said that the Puja decoration will be theme-based. "And this time the Medieval Fortress theme will surpass the "Banedibari Building" (traditional Bengali house) theme of 2017 or the "Pagoda of the Far West" of 2019,” said Dipanwita.