DEVI; THE GODDESS IN BRITAIN
Durga Puja is arguably the most important cultural festival of the Bengali Hindu Community. And for hundreds of thousands of Bengalis living in London, it is a time to assimilate and join in the various ‘pujas’ organised by local Bengali Hindu communities. Traditionally a four-day festival, the puja offers prayers to the mother goddess Durga and revolves round a mythological story. As the story goes, Durga is returning to her husband Shiva after spending some time at her father’s home. She is accompanied by her four children who are gods and goddesses as well. En route, she encounters a powerful demon, half man, half-buffalo and kills him. The idol that is worshipped is a representation of female empowerment in the creation of the image of Durga slaying the demon in front of her children.
As an occasion, it comes with it’s rules, customs, food and costumes - all of which are adopted or adapted into as an immersion into a community removed. The venues are odd. Unused buildings in sports grounds, derelict but once lavish town halls, boxing venues and rugby clubs dotted around London transform to host the festival followed by community traditional feasts.
The project follows three of the most attended celebrations in East London and explores ideas of identity, nostalgia and assimilation.