Sourav Ganguly launched the 10th anniversary of (LSU) at Oxford on Wednesday, with a Bengali puja ritual called “khunti puja”.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better way to mark LSU’s 10 years,” LSU member Anirban Mukhopadhyay said. Former India footballer Dipendu Biswas was also present; the duo watered a banana sapling that will be used as “kola bou” (Ganesh’s ‘banana bride’) for the LSU Pujo.
LSU is one of the most crowd-pleasing Durga Pujas in the UK, involved in activities promoting Bengal’s cultural heritage in London. Last year, LSU collaborated with London’s 102-year-old School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University in a unique clay idol-making workshop, as part of the Bengal Heritage Project (BHP) that was announced during Presidency University’s bicentenary celebrations in Kolkata. “Among all the Durga Pujas in London, LSU is our favourite,” said Sambrita Das, who participated in the “kunti pujo”, a first in UK. “It was like getting back to our roots, being a part of a ‘khuti pujo’ here in Britain,” said the IT professional, whose arrival in the UK was coincidental to LSU’s birth.
“LSU was forked out in 2008 by a group of like-minded professionals who wished to have their own barwari (community)-style pujo in London. We started with a bang, not just organizing a get-together in the name of Durga, but by incorporating meaningful activity with the festivities,” said Suranjan Som, who was LSU’s first president. “Our Pujo stands out among the others organized by non-resident Bengalis in the diaspora, because our entire existence is aimed at providing a global platform to Brand Bengal,” said Mukhopadhyay, referring to last year’s “Global Durga Pujo” project that connected Kolkata and London pujas through live events like dhaaker lorai and antakshari. Then there’s the Biswa Sharad Samman, a judging contest by NRB visitors to Kolkata during the Puja days. “We have also been organizing a diaspora cricket tournament for the last six years. This year, it will be on August 19. What’s more, we also bring out the only diaspora magazine in the UK called ‘Panchmeshali’,” said Mukhopadhay.
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LSU has also played a paramount role in promoting Bengal Patachitra by hosting exhibitions during the Puja days, hosting Baluchari fashion festival to brand Baluchari as an art enterprise and not just a textile restricted to sarees but shirts and different garments. It also organised the first ever East Bengal and Mohun Bagan Fans football tournament which got astounding response from the diaspora in UK. “We in LSU supports scholarship program for the poor but meritorious students of the Sundarbans in Association action with Banchbo,” said Mukhopadhyay.
But nothing can surpass the Bengal Heritage Project initiated by LSU, which made its members work closely with the Bengal Heritage Foundation for Bengal-centric projects like Prince Dwarkanath Tagore tomb restoration. “One of our best achievements has been partnering with SOAS University of London to make a Durga Idol for the first time ever at the historic Senate Building of the University of London. The idol is a modular one which means the head will be replaced every year giving the idol a new look each year,” said Mukhopadhyay, adding, “We are also collaborating with British Council, and the NHS for ‘Healthy Living Initiative’ football tournament.”
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