Saraswati Puja – a letter from Ritesh Das:

Growing up in a dance and music family in Kolkata India, I got exposed to many cultural activities and ceremonies.
One such ceremony and festival was Saraswati Puja. Saraswati the Goddess of Art and education was widely celebrated in Kolkata. The night before the deity was brought from Kumartuli Kolkata known for making idols. The deity was placed on the stage and senior students cleaned and decorated the floor with Alpana (Rangoli). Lights were hung, fruits, flowers and Puja materials were put in place for the ceremony next day.

Saraswati pujaI woke up in the morning smelling flowers and fresh cut fruits and voices of senior students preparing and music in the background. I learnt my first fasting lesson. Fasting was not compulsory but part of the ritual until you offered your prayers. Students started showing up with their class note books whether from their dance, music or general education classes. Some brought their instruments and dance bells and Puja began.

Then came the exciting part of Anjali, which was prayer conducted by the priest, and all students prayed and offered flowers to Saraswati. Some would collect flowers from the alter and put that in their Textbooks. After this, some kids would learn to write their first alphabets or take their first dance step or play their first musical notes. Prossad (offering of fruits sweets from the altar) were distributed and we all then sat down for the famous lunch of Labra (mixed vegetable) Kitchouri, fried eggplant and chutney. (Food for this occasion here is prepared by TTE parent committee volunteers).
Everyone left for the afternoon and showed up in the evening for the performances, which began with students and ended with a famous well-known performer or our teacher from whom we learnt quite a lot.

The above is an essence and I am sure many of you from various other parts of India have stories and experiences to share as well.
This is part of the tradition and is very important to maintain here in the west especially for children studying the Indian art form. The above is an essence and I am sure many of you from various other parts of India have stories and experiences to share as well.

Prasad Banerjee
I have known Prasad Da (brother) for many years. He is the back bone of Bengali culture here in Toronto, one of the founders of Toronto Kali Bari (Kali Temple) and now is in the advisory committee.
My relation with him and his wife goes a little bit beyond that. He conducted the rites for my Parents when they passed away. Prasad Da’s niece; Labonee Mohanta is a senior disciple of my brother, late Pandit Chitresh Das. You will love the way he explains and conducts the ceremony. Students learn quite a lot about the culture every time he conducts a ceremony at the studio.

I hope to see all of you on here at our centre on February 4th.

Ritesh Das

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