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KANSAS CITY, Missouri — One of the biggest Durga Pujas in the Midwest was held Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Scottish Rites Temple here. Hundreds of Bengali and South Asian devotees gathered for the festival in a joyous celebration of Maa Durga.

Women were dressed in sparkling beautifully draped red and beige sarees with gold zari and glittering jewelry. Men were dressed in bright kurta tops, walking around photographing their wives and children with smart phones. Vendors were lined up on the sides selling clothing and jewelry. 

Women prepare to awaken Maa Durga during the Bodhon for Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Joyeeta Chakraborty holds a packet of sindoor for Sindoor Khela in her hands at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Debabrata Bhaduri, a lay priest, assisted by Amritanshu Chakraborty, performs the puja for the Navratri Durga Puja, sponsored by the Kansas City Bengali Association, at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Kansas City Bengali Association President Joyeeta Chakraborty at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Ten years of pujo

President and Co-Founder of the Kansas City Bengali Association, Joyeeta Chakraborty, says this is the 10th year of the Durga Pujo (as Bengalis affectionately call it).

Chakraborty came to the US in 1998. Eleven years ago, she, along with members of the Executive Board, came up with the idea of having a Durga Pujo.

Attendees cup their hands over the aarti lamp after the puja is over, receiving blessings from Maa Durga, at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“It’s not only Kansas City,” she says. “People also come from St. Louis, Omaha, everybody comes together. It’s fun for three days. It’s very nostalgic for us.”

Every year there is entertainment. This year they started with playback singer Benny Dayal on Sept. 30, Poushali Banerjee on Oct. 1 and Piu Mukherjee on Oct. 2.

Women pray to Maa Durga during the Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Mrs. Chakraborty and the team rent out a whole kitchen to make classic Bengali dishes for hundreds of people such as hilsa fish, paneer, enchorer (a jackfruit dish), rasgulla and many other delicacies. The food team makes many dishes in their homes as well.

Women prepare for the Bodhon, awakening the goddess, during Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
A female devotee holds offerings to Maa Durga during the Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Women hold bel leaves in their hands to awaken Maa Durga during the Bodhon for Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Women apply sindoor to each other at Durga Puja at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, MO on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Jinia Chakraborty at the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on Oct 2, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Connecting with culture

Jinia Chakraborty, 21, Ms. Chakraborty’s daughter, was involved more this year and was beside mother’s helping whenever needed. She has been coming to the Pujo as long as she can remember.

“I really enjoy that it’s one weekend where I can really get in touch with my culture,” she says. “I can dress up in all these dresses and eat delicious Bengali food. And I really respect how much effort and time they put in all the logistical planning.”

One thing Jinia Chakraborty loves to eat is ilish or hilsa fish that her mother makes. “My mom cooks it and it’s a Bengali delicacy. It’s not something we eat very often.”

To learn more about the Kansas City Bengali Association visit https://kcbengalis.com.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...