2023 is a particularly significant year in the history of Bengalis in Canada – because fifty years ago in 1973, Durga Puja was held for the first time in Toronto, Canada, a few thousand miles away from the motherland. Moving fifty years past the happy memory of that day and looking back at today’s moving forward, the most read Bengali newspaper in Canada has captured this special year in a novel attempt by publishing its special autumn issue. Volume eleven and forty-seventh edition of Banglamail on October 19th was exclusively published in Toronto on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Durga Puja. The brainchild of this special issue is writer and researcher Subrata Kumar Das, a popular figure in Bengali society. And this special issue is the product of his thoughts, and this special issue was made possible by the sole efforts of Shahidul Islam Mintu, the leader of Banglamail.
The guest editor of this special Sharad issue, Subrata Kumar Das, had already planned in his mind how to hand over this issue as a prestigious literary issue to the readers. And according to that, he was active and advancing the activity behind the public eye. He sent letters of invitation to writers in different cities of different provinces in different parts of Canada and selected the topics carefully. The reader will understand how different histories, experiences and memories have come up in each writing. Through Smriti Romanthan, we have been able to retain the lost time in various articles under different titles of this special issue. Twenty or fifty years from today, on an autumn evening, future generations will be able to find history by taking this number in hand, and the glory of Durga Puja will be drowned in the heart of Toronto. To give birth to those moments of the future, this autumn number of fifty years is arranged with a lot of significance.
Durga Puja means Festival Mukharata – a few days of endless joy from Mahalaya to Vijaya Dashami. Asim Bhowmik and Dr. Dilip Kumar Chakraborty’s essays ‘Remembrance of First Durga Puja in Kannada’ and ‘First Durga Puja at Smriti Manikotha’ respectively will transport the readers to the days of distant past. In his writings, Shekhar E. Gomez expressed how Durgotsav was to his community. Devanjana Mukherjee Bhowmik myself has written under the title ‘Mahadesh Four – Utsav Ek’ to convey the far away taste of the readers with the experience of celebrating Durga Puja on the soil of Asia, Australia, Europe, North America. Reshma Mazumder Shampa, Ritushri Ghosh, Nasima Akhtar Mita and Jyoti Dutta Purkayst – all of them have tried to convey their memories, pujas, pujas and their feelings and experiences to the heart of the reader in their writings. Professor Shekhar Kumar Sanyal from Calgary has penned interesting articles on the philosophy of puja under the title ‘Tamso Maa Jotirgamoy’, Chintak Akbar Hossain in the article ‘Our Puja-Parvan’ and ‘Madhu Kaitav Vidhvansi’ by Himadri Roy. Romena Haque Ruma presented the essay ‘Durga Puja: I open the window of memory’ and Samina Chowdhury presented the essay ‘Amar Deha Durga Puja and UNESCO’. Each text is beautifully decorated and beautifully reminisced.
There are several valuable articles in this Sharad newspaper about when and where Durga Puja started in Canada. ‘Bengali in Toronto and Durga Pujo Talks of the Day’ is written by energetic Bengali Asit Kumar Dutta. “Durga Puja in Toronto: Half a century’s tour” by Ashish Roy The history of Durgabari has also been highlighted in the article ‘Durgabari Te Dhak Bajlo Yaha’ by Dr. Sushital Chowdhury.
Stories of the beginning of public Durga Puja in Ottawa can be found in the writings of Jharna Chatterjee. Readers can immerse themselves in the Puja of Montreal in Vidyut Bhowmik’s article – Universality of Durga Puja, Mahatma and Durga Puja in Montreal. Shantanu Vanik’s work will take the reader to Calgary’s puja. Mansi Saha has brought up the memory of the first autumn festival in Kingston in his writings. Again, Purbasha Chowdhury wrote about the memory of Saskatoon puja. Waterloo Kitchener’s puja reached readers through Sushil Kumar Poddar’s ‘Parbase Pujo’. Anita Roychowdhury writes about Sharodtsav in Vancouver. Madhumita Chatterjee’s writing has managed to convey the reader’s mind to Manitoba’s ‘Bichitra – The Bengali Association of Manitoba’. And Atanu Dasgupta’s hands can be visited at the puja of Halifax in his memorable writing of the first puja.
During Puja, many famous and expensive puja varshiki are published in Calcutta in India, decorated with various literature. In addition to writing in those pujabarshiki, there are photos of puja decorations, various cooking recipes or bahari clothes. This special issue of Banglamail to celebrate fifty years is no exception. Organized by Soheli Ahmed, the magazine contains many interesting articles and pictures of Puja decorations From skin rejuvenation to pooja, hair decoration or foundation – everything is arranged in a few pages. Petpujo arrangements are visible on the pages of newspapers. All the tempting recipes are arranged in colorful pages with rich cooking pictures and writings that will surely captivate the reader. Organized by Sadia Haque Laki, Pujo’s recipes have perfected Tai Patrika and enthralled foodie Bengalis.
The guest editor of this autumn issue, Subrata Kumar Das, in his editorial has informed everyone about the greatness of organizing this biggest festival with a detailed description of around twenty Durga Pujas this year and the good news of various cultural events. There is no doubt that this issue, published just before the Puja, helped the Bengalis of Ontario to visit the Puja. In his writings, he has expressed his positive attitude and appreciation for the devotion of the organizers of the expatriate puja, the preparation of the volunteers, the literature-based Bengali language magazine.
The newspaper also has an interesting piece written by Sujit Kusum Pal, editor of Neelkamal, a magazine published by Dharmashram – ‘Neelkamal: Editorial Anand-Bishaad’. Apart from this, there are some writings about the worship of Bangladesh. Pooja’s story is Aparna Valentina Gomez’s ‘Hospitality as a Guest’. Lutfar Rahman Riton wrote the last piece of Sharad issue, raising the victory sound of non-sectarian Bengal and Bengali.
Finally, it must be said that this great sacrifice of Banglamail has been possible only because of the communal harmony attitude of the publisher. Editor Shahidul Islam Mintu does not mix his devotion to his work with his religion and his profession of journalism – he has proved it many times through his various works and programs for Hindu people on his TV channel NRB TV.
And so the Sharad numbers remain an extraordinary historical resource. There Hindu Muslim Christians – people of all religions have written and people of all religions have freely come forward with sponsorship and given all kinds of financial support to publish this magazine. Tanveer Nawaz, Barrister Surya Chakraborty, Morshed Nizam CPA, Shan De, Chitta Das, Pranavesh and Sujoy Poddar, Gautam Pal, Mohsin Bhuiyan, Hisham Chishti, Afia Begum, Sadhan Dev, Sudeep Som – these names of prime sponsors reached the readers in bright letters in the magazine. Banglamail expressed its gratitude and we writers and readers are happy to be a part of this non-sectarian Mahayagna. There were also Farha Khan, Neetu Dutt, Deepika Fashion, Sukomal Roy, Robin Islam, Sanat Barua, Anisur Rahman, Barrister Shamim Ara, Arif and Atal whose advertisements were on the magazine’s pages and who helped bring this number to life. My special thanks to Subrata Kumar Das for presenting his writing in this autumn issue and for writing today’s evaluation episode or review.
At the end, I would like to inform you that in the dark times of sectarianism in different parts of the world, Shahidul Islam Mintu dedicated an entire issue in Toronto to keep the golden jubilee year of Durga Puja, the biggest festival of Hindus, in the pages of history. This arrangement, this historic effort is therefore more admirable, more encouraging, more unprecedented. Recently for this effort he was felicitated on the cultural stage of Durga Puja from the Hindu Dharmashram in Canada. This work of dresses was recognized in front of a large audience. But that too became another example.