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October 23, 2001
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Durga Puja festivities kicked off in Paris

Ranvir Nayar in Paris

The most important religious event for Bengalis, the Durga Puja, is underway in Paris with traditional fervour and gaiety.

The puja is being hosted at the Maison de l'Inde in southern Paris.

The four-day event has been organised by a leading Bengali organisation, Sammilani, and starts every morning with regular prayers.

The festival, also known as the Autumn Festival, began Monday evening with the bodhon, or "pran pratishtha, prayer that signifies life in the statue of Durga.

Nearly 50 Bengali families from Paris and its suburbs attended the opening.

Regular prayers and festivities will be held in exactly the same manner as it is done in a traditional Bengali family. The festival will come to a climactic close Thursday evening with the navami homa, or the ninth day prayers.

The director of Maison de l'Inde, Bikas Sanyal, says this year the Durga Puja has a very special meaning due to the events that are currently taking place around the world.

"Durga was created to fight and drive away the demons who conquered the gods and occupied the heaven. Today, we need another Durga to fight the demon of terrorism," says Sanyal.

And as it happens back home in West Bengal, organisers have also planned a range of cultural and social events for each evening. These include classical dance, concerts and plays performed by members of the rather modest Bengali community.

Though the community today numbers less than 150 families in and around Paris, the community has been one of the most rapidly growing communities in the city.

Indo-Asian News Service

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