A Durga Puja in Germany will worship an idol made in Germany.
The puja in Erlangen, a city in Bavaria in southern Germany, around 15km north of Nuremberg, is organised by three Bengali families and a bunch of Bengali students, who call themselves Durga-ville.
Erlangen is the home of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Friedrich-Alexander-University), founded in 1742. The volunteers are students of the university. Unlike most pujas in the West, which order idols from India, the idol in Erlangen is made by one of the organisers.
Dipankar Sarkar, 37, is a software engineer who has been living in Germany for more than a decade. He was born and raised in Sodepur, on the northern fringes of Kolkata. He lived near a Kali temple where idols would be made by a couple of potters. He had a deep interest in art and craft and took to idol-making early in his life.
“In making the idol, I can recreate a slice of my childhood,” said Sarkar, one of the founding members of Durgaville.
The Erlangen puja prides itself on sticking to tradition. It abides by the Bengali calendar. Also in keeping with the old school, the preparation for the idol started on Rath Yatra by worshipping the structure (kathamo puja). The making of the ekchala idol, around 2.5m-wide and 1.5m-high, took around three months, said Sarkar.
“Any puja association across the globe is incomplete without its community of volunteers. To achieve such an uphill task is not easy and is impossible to reach without helping hands. This is where the power of the student community comes into the picture. Durgaville is sustained by these passionate Bengali students who bring so much value to the team,” said another organiser.
Dipankar Sarkar paints idols for the puja in Germany’s Erlangen.
“Most of the students come to Germany to start their semester right before Durga Puja. Durgaville ensures that they do not miss home and the festivities there,” said Arka Acharya, a student at the Friedrich-Alexander-University and one of the organisers of the Erlangen Puja.
The use of origami, a paper-folding technique rooted in Japan, in the decorations is one of the highlights of this year’s puja. A priest from Barasat landed in Erlangen earlier this week. Bhog and cultural programmes are also an integral part of the festivities.
A Durga Puja in Berlin turned two this year. The Berlin Sarbojanin Durgotsav is held at the Sri Ganesh Hindu Temple in largest city in Germany. The Puja also sticks to the traditional Bengali calendar. The idol is brought from Kumartuli. The dashakarma goods are also shipped from there. A priest from Dusseldorf has flown into Berlin to perform the puja.
“Our puja will be organised following all rituals and traditions exactly like they are done in Kolkata. The preparations started this year on July 16 by performing khuti puja at the Sri Ganesh Hindu Temple. From Sashthi’s Adhibash, Ashtami’s Sandhi puja, Kumari puja to Dashami’s sindur khela and darpan bisarjan, we stick to the traditions as best as we can,” said Subhajit Sarkar, one of the organisers.
The puja is organised by IGNITE eV, a non-profit organisation that aims to preserve Indian culture and helps the Indian diaspora in Germany.