Bengali diaspora in UK celebrated the original spirit of Durga Puja

Published: 2 November 2023

Post Desk:

After the huge success of the inaugural Thames Durga Parade in 2022 UK based Heritage Bengal Global, a not-for-profit Organisation comprised of Bengali diaspora mostly with roots in Bengal, India celebrated this year’s second edition of ‘Thames Durga Parade’ on October 28 with a double storied boat and a larger audience than last year in attendance.  This year’s event culminated in ‘bijoya sammilani’ (celebration Dashami the last day of puja) with Durga idol display on the deck of the boat, along with bhatiali songs and dance by HBG members and the audience to the beats of dhaak (drum) and kansor ghonta (cymbal).

The parade was attended by the new British Deputy High Commissioner to Kolkata Andrew Fleming and his immediate predecessor Nick Low, both of whom were present in London and were joined by senior members of the British Civil Service, Army and Royal Air Force. Also present in the parade were the Chairman of the Cultural Committee of the City of London Council Munsur Ali, ex-Harrow Mayor Cllr Suresh Kumar & Mayoress Sasi along with Harrow councillor Matthew Goodwin Freeman. Noted Tollywood actor-turned-filmmaker Soumyajit Majumdar was also present.

Aimed at promoting Kolkata Durga Puja as a global tourism destination, the Thames Durga Parade has been a game changer in the UK Durga Puja scenario this year wherein many Indian state associations sent their representatives to the parade. Bengal featured uniquely in the Parade this year, with inclusion of bhatiali song by the noted folk singer Sourav Moni, who flew down from Bengal for the event and Lal Baba Rice, a leading rice brand of Bengal became a perpetual sponsor partner of Durga Thames Parade, which would be HBG’s annual event from this year onwards. 

HBG President Anirban Mukhopadhyay, who started this Durga parade on Thames last year (2022) said, “Last year we started this Parade with one boat and this year we have doubled the participation with actual Durga idol display on the deck celebrating the final journey of Maa Durga to her husband’s abode on Dashami with culmination of the Bijoya Dashami (final day of the pujas) celebration. We are not far from the days when we would have more boats on the Thames parade, to fulfil our objective of attracting more local people to watch this extravaganza, so to be inspired to visit Bengal during this annual festival in India thus to boost inward tourism into Kolkata and Bengal as the destination.”  

Chandan Roy Choudhury, the Hony. Secretary of Calcutta Rowing Club, Kolkata (estd. 1858) announced a commemorative event to be organised in Kolkata next year in which London Rowing Club (estd. 1856) would be participating, in presence of the Secretary and Treasurer Phillip Carre of LRC.

Harrow Counsellor, Mathew Goodwin Freeman launched Earthwise, a venture of SUENO-CO Ltd. dedicated to environmentally friendly products for the social community at large in presence of its founder, Shubhankar Mukherjee. Past Harrow Mayor Cllr Suresh lauded HBG’s works in the social sector towards community harmony amongst Indian diaspora and the local with more likely partnership in joint events next year. 

Tushar Das Ghose of ETOS, one of the major Sponsors this year commended the efforts of HBG in showcasing multiculturalism with harmony in Bengal’s rich cultural heritage in organising this Thames parade which had now become an annual event this year onwards.

UK based educational group, Global Education Holdings (GEDU) was another sponsor along with GBS, both of whom had been associated with HBG and been supporting their community initiatives through sporting and cultural events.

HBG Vice president, Mahua Bej and members Priyanka Burman and Jayeeta Choudhury contributed significantly to the event along with an UK based Bangladeshi organisation, United Hindu Cultural Association of London who arranged for the dhakis and their instruments on the boat.  

This year saw attendance from a globe trotter and Durga pandal hopper from Sydney Australia, Indranil Halder who visited Durga pujas in US and UK over past one month before the finale on Thames Parade. 

Medway Oikatan Cultural Association (MOCA), who organised its first Durga puja celebration in Medway, contributed to the parade by displaying their idol on the deck as part of promoting their puja this year. Bhowanipur 75 Palli Durga Puja along with Pointers Business Forum from Kolkata also participated in the parade this year.