Category Archives: Hindu Celebration

Chobi Mela

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Rush hour commute (all day) at Farmgate bus terminal, Dhaka

Chobi Mela means Picture Festival and I can’t think of a better place to host such an event as chobi loving Bangladesh. Even compared to New York and Paris, Dhaka has one of the highest ratios of documentary photographers in the world. Much of that should be credited to Shahidul Alam, the founder of Pathshala: The South Asian Institute of Photography and Drik, a  photography agency that distributes the work of “Majority World” photographers many of whom are former Pathshala students.

The festival opened with a live video conference between Noam Chomsky from his office at MIT and the West Bengal writer Mahasweta Devi discussing  “freedom”, the festival’s theme this year. I haven’t seen so many gringos in six months. Yesterday I saw over a dozen exhibits at Shilpakala Academy and plan to  sit in on a few of the screenings and talks this week.

So much has been going on in Dhaka this weekend. Bishwa Ijtema, the world’s second largest Muslim pilgrimage  (after Mecca) is taking place this weekend in the northern part of the city. Three to four million visitors are expected from around the world. I was there yesterday and will post more soon as well as what I saw over at Dhaka University where celebrations took place for the Hindu deity Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and learning.

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Durga Puja


Smoke Dance

Listen to the tension of this audio clip from last nights Puja

Durga Puja (worship of Durga) is one of the important religious festivals for Bengali Hindus. It celebrates the return of the Goddess to her family. In other parts of India, Durga is also worshiped, but under different names. Durga does not belong to the Vedic pantheon, but is a later Goddess. She came to be known as Durga after killing a demon named Durgo. She is also called Durga because she brings an end to all forms of misery.

Durga Puja is a time when woman in Bangladesh return to their families home. On the last day of the  festival, the statue of Durga is carried and released into the river, symbolizing the return to her husbands home. It is a day of immense sadness. Last night at three in the morning I was shaken by thunder and lightening so loud and strong that it felt like an earthquake. They say it always rains on this day to symbolize the tears that the people feel.