Friday, October 4, 2019

Reminiscing and Celebrating the Festive Season with Tania

Festival time in the United States is fun and joyous. Its the time to celebrate the festive season in our own unique way. Yet, there is one thing, one emotion that connects us all. It is the desire to recreate the joyous atmosphere we left behind in India. It is a walk down memory lane,  a time to reminisce, and a time to create new traditions and memories. For me this time of the year is all about family, love, laughter, blessings, happiness and twinkling lights :)  

I wanted to do a post where I could share a glimpse of a home dressed up for the holiday season. Tania has created festive vignettes in her home that are stunning. What pleased my heart is how beautifully she has incorporated pieces from my little store into her puja decor. 

In Tania's own words, her home dressed up for the occasion....

Durga Puja and the Hindu festive season is my favorite time of the year, without fail. The leaves are just beginning to turn colors in this part of the continent. The days are warm and the evenings are cool. When I was young and we were still living in India, Durga Puja was a sprawling and elaborate ten day celebration that required months of planning. Each year, my extended family gathered in my maternal ancestral home in Benares to fast, feast, pray, and welcome Durga home. The three story house was filled with the fragrance of hundreds of flowers, freshly ground chandan, incense, and the distinct scent of the oil that filled brass lamps, and camphor - scents that I still cherish to this day. None of those celebrations exist anymore. The house is gone. The traditions as they were, are gone. Many of the people are gone, too. The last time I had the privilege of seeing it all was in 2001, when I was 12 years old. For this reason, Durga puja is an extremely colorful yet slightly bittersweet time for me. 

For the last few years, it's become a tradition for me to set up a small Ma Durga shrine at my parents' house. It is a personal way of celebrating those auspicious ten days. The last time that my parents went to India, they were able to bring back some of the heirloom puja articles from my mother's home - hammered copper vessels (ghots), brass plates and cups, and an intricately carved stone sondesh mold belonging to my grandmother, among others. One of my favorites is a majestic, heavy, five pronged brass lamp, or panchapradeep - objects that have been in my family for generations. Over the past four years, I have slowly been incorporating these articles into my Durga Puja set up. I'm not a particularly religious person, so this becomes my puja every year: picking out fresh flowers, finding greens from our garden, and painstakingly arranging and re-arranging everything until it's up to my satisfaction. At the center of it all is a gilded clay statue of Durga that I found in Gariahat market in Kolkata when I visited in 2016. 

Naturally, I miss the grand Durga Pujas we used to have in Benares, and I am always nostalgic for pujo in Kolkata, which overtakes the whole city - but which I have never seen myself, only caught glimpses of in photos and accounts from friends. Here in DC, I’m so incredibly lucky to have a huge Bengali second family, where we celebrate with just as much enthusiasm as we would’ve in Benares or Kolkata - new clothes, bhog, temple visits, listening to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s timeless Mahalaya recordings in the mornings. Each year, the smell of incense, camphor, and sandalwood, and the steady, familiar chants of the mantras, the unmistakable sounds of kaanshis and dhaak drums always fill me with equal measures of joy and nostalgia. Here’s hoping that I can be in Kolkata for a pujo, super soon - but until then, our larger-than-life Bengali community in DC is doing a fine job of keeping the pujo spirit just as alive as it was when I was young"

Tania thank you for inviting us into your home! Your words have brought back so many of my childhood memories. The festivals are truly bittersweet. Living abroad our lives have changed in big and small ways. However, creating new traditions, while keeping some semblance of the old intact, is such a beautiful way to celebrate this season.

Tania Chatterjee is a brilliant photographer and you can visit her website  to know more about her. Follow her on Instagram as her posts are a visual treat.
All the images above are Copyright Tania Chatterjee and cannot be used without written permission.

The Shop At My Dream Canvas has a host of goodies for the festive season. Click here to visit the store!

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