Atheism 2.0

Recently I watched this wonderful TED talk by Alain de Botton. He was talking about atheism, but unlike many other more radical atheists, he did not reject religion altogether. His philosophy is that, there is a class of people who do not really believe in the existence of god or gods, but they like the other aspects of religion like the rituals, the music, the literature, the art, the myths. Alain says that these aspects of religion, the more popular aspects which enrich us in many positive ways, we don’t have to reject them. I don’t want to go into the details of his talk, you can watch the video and listen for yourself, but this concept which Alain calls Atheism 2.0 rang a bell in me.
I love to attend our Durga Puja festivals, love to hear the mythological stories associated with Durga and Mahishasur although I don’t believe they really exist. I love to listen to the sonorous chanting of the “Chandi” or listen to the ecstatic Kirtan music and feel elated. I love Shyama Sangeet, I like to watch plays and listen to stories of Hindu mythology and the epics, although I don’t feel compelled to believe them as historical truth. And I believe, I am not alone. Many of us who have been sitting on the fence of religion, wondering which side to land on, now have this third option – Atheism 2.0. We refuse to be indoctrinated by religion, refuse to believe that ours is the best and for that matter any religion to be better than any other. But we gladly accept the goodies that these religions offers us and thus enrich ourselves with those aspects.
I would like to know what others think about this.

Learning About Our Heritage: A Task For The First Generation

by Amitava Sen

DurgaA few years ago at the annual Durga Puja, the organizing club published a booklet for the benefit of the generation born and raised here, explaining the significance and meaning of the festival and its various events on different days. Rightly so, the narration started with Mahalaya, the new moon day preceding the Puja. Mahalaya is actually a day when Hindus, typically Bengali Hindus pay homage to the ancestors, culminating in Sharodiya Durga Puja six days later. Indeed, it is a Hindu practice to invoke the blessings of the ancestors before any solemn occasion, be it a wedding or an Annaprasan. But that was not what the author of the little booklet wrote in his explanation of Durga Puja for our children. Mahalaya, according to his narrative was the day on which Calcutta radio broadcast an audio musical, Mahishasurmardini. And that was all, what Mahalaya meant! Continue reading

Durga Puja – Here and There

Durga Pratima Bisarjan - IIT Kharagpur Campus during the seventies.Few minutes ago an old friend of mine called to wish me for the upcoming Durga Puja festivals. He said, “It’s Mahasasthi in Kolkata today!” I wished him back, but it occurred to me that it’s Mahasashti everywhere, not only in Kolkata. When I reminded him, he laughed and said, “Yes indeed. But our Sasthi starts on coming Friday!” And he is absolutely right. Our Pujo in New Jersey (I am referring to the Kallol Durga Pujo which we both attend), starts on October 15th, Friday evening and that’s our Mahasasthi. The thought does give me some consolation that Pujo is yet to start and we have few more days to look forward too. But my friends and family in Kolkata have started enjoying their Pujo. They have started posting photos of their favorite idols on Facebook and Orkut, sending Pujo greetings through emails and expressing their joy and merriment. ETV Bangla is taking us through the streets of Kolkata and the online newspapers and magazines giving us day by day commentary of the Pujo happenings. And we cannot deny that this does cause a bit of a tinge in our hearts. Continue reading

Durga Puja 2010 : New Jersey Style

The time of the year is here again. The sky is blue with patches of white clouds floating lazily and the weather is cooling down. Durga Puja is here again in New Jersey. The local Bengali associations are gearing up to welcome Ma Durga with the usual pomp and cultural extravaganza, and let me share with you some information about the festivities that has come to my notice.

Like previous years, Durga Puja festival in New Jersey will be heralded in by the live Mahishashura Mardini (Mahalaya) performance  at the Ananda Mandir on October 10th at 5.00am in the morning. I have been a regular attendee at this event, and I can promise you that if you can take that bold step of getting up from bed that early and drive down to Ananda Mandir, you’ll have an experience that you will never regret. Continue reading

NJPA Kali Puja 2009

NJPA cordially invites you to celebrate Kali Puja on October 10th at CrossRoads Middle School.Puja will start at 3:00 PM which will be followed by Prasad and Dinner. Nirmalya Roy of Zee-TV, Tara TV, ETV, Saregama fame will present semi-calssical and ghazals and Moumita Chatterjee of Calcutta Door Darshan, ETV, Tara Music and aAkash Bangla Fame and will present variety songs,. For more information, please visit http://njpa.net.

New Jersey Durga Puja 2009 : A Review

Durga Protima Kallol of New JerseyFinally the annual Durga Puja celebrations are over. I was mostly present at the Kallol pujo but also paid (no pun intended) short visits at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Anandamandir. Kallol, just like the previous year, had a full house and had to turn away several people. In one of my previous blogs I had requested, rather wished, that Kallol provide a daily ticket for people who would like to come in for a day. However, for whatever reasons, Kallol decided on the contrary and the result was that I had to listen to complaints from several disappointed friends and family.  Well, rules are rules – that’s what I said.

This year I did something which I never did before. I dropped in on Thursday evening – and it was real fun. There was no pressure of showing the badge, no parking tags, no stress about reserving seats with shawls and jackets and no celebrities on stage to pay attention to. While the volunteers were busy setting up the idol and the kids busy rehearsing on the stage, I had a good time chatting with  friends. For once, after a long time, I had the pleasure of pure Pujo adda – completly unadultered fun. I think we should, at least informally, start the festivities from Thursday – just to prolong the enjoyment for few more hours. Continue reading

Durga Puja and Cultural Events: The 2009 New Jersey Lineup

Ujjaini MukherjeeIn New Jersey, Durga Puja is a special time when the festive mood brings with it a flurry of entertainment and cultural programs across the state. This year too the line up looks very promising although the spirits have dampened a bit due to the tough economic times and with the rejection of visas of few of the performers.  Still the combination of local talents and professionals from India is bound to enthrall the Puja attendees on the coming weekends.

I’ll try to briefly summarize the lineup this year, although the organizers have in many cases conveniently omitted the details about the local performers from their web sites. I tried to collect as much information I could manage. If any of you have more information, then please feel free to add them to this post as comments. Continue reading

Goat and the Bengali Intelligentsia

goat The intelligentsia (as defined by Wikipedia) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them.  You can very well attribute this term to the Bengali society who fits this definition quite well.  But what does a timid and herbivorous (although Bengalis think goats to be omnivorous – chhagole ki na khay) mammal like goat got to do with this elite group of people?  The answer to this is well known to all of us – Bengalis love goat meat. Although in other parts of the World, goat milk and milk products (cheese) are also extremely popular, but we the Bengalis don’t care much about the milk.  It is the meat that is most important to us – the ultimate food in any Bengali plate.  Historically, goat meat is the only kind of meat that Bengalis (especially the Hindu Bengalis) ate. Goats were the most popular offerings to Goddess Kali and Durga – and the meat then cooked in a recipe void of any garlic or onions and hence termed as “vegetarian meat”.

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Bannya Concert in New York

A unique concert of Tagore songs with the accompaniment of Indian and Western musical instruments is planned for Saturday, July the 18th, 2009, at 6-30 P.M. at the fabulous sanctuary of the futuristic Saint Peters Church in the heart of New York City at 619 Lexington Avenue (corner of 54th Street), New York City. Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, the famed Tagore singer, will be the solo vocalist. Among the instruments will be Piano, Violin, Saxophone, Harp, Cello, Veena, Sitar, Flute, Tabla, Mandira etc. The musicians who will play these instruments are all accomplished artistes in their respective areas. This is the first time that such a concert is being offered where so many Western instruments will be played with Tagore songs (or any other Bengali song genre, for that matter) at the same session. As planned, Ms. Bannya will sing an average of two songs with each instrument individually. At the end, two or more songs are expected to be offered with all the  instruments playing together.

Suggested donations for the concert has been set at $100, $50 and $25, to defray the costs for the concert. Guests are requested to arrive on time and take their seats by 6-30 pm so that the session may start on time. The entrance is through the 54th Street south side doors, less than 50 feet from Lexington Avenue while walking towards Third Avenue. Discount parking is available at Metropolitan 51 Parking, 569 Lexington Avenue, south side of 51st Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenue ($15 for upto five hours).. For getting the discount, the tickets have to be endorsed by a seal at the reception desk at the church entrance.

Those interested to attend the concert and collect tickets are requested to ontact: 347-570-7787, 917-770-0146, 718-414-9743 or send email at following adresses:
email: smullah41@yahoo.comsarwarharun@gmail.com

Kathak in America – The Story of Kalamandir

Kathak by Kalamandir StudentsThe classical Indian dance form Kathak is now quite well known amongst the dance connoisseurs of America.  Americans who have some familiarity with classical music and dance of India, know about Kathak – a dance form that truly blends together the various components of Indian music – melody, rhythm and the beauty of the physical form.  It is true that many stalwarts of the Kathak dance form like Pandit Birju Maharaj and others have graced the American stage with their amazing performances, but the primary reason for its popularity and sustenance in this country is due to the tremendous efforts put in by several Kathak dance schools and academies run by the immigrant dancers from India who wanted to spread their passion for this art form amongst the next generation. Once such school is Kalamandir of New Jersey led by its director, Malabika Guha.

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Search for Idols

Indian Idol Anu Malik The reality TV show “American Idol” has triggered a new trend – Idol search! TV channels all over the world are searching for idols – or talents. This search is not only limited to the television screen, but it has also proliferated onto the stage in various forms. Although the primary objective of this kind of shows is to screen for talent,  in reality (excuse the pun) it is nothing but an entertainment show. The excitement, the drama, and the occasional emotional outbursts, are all part of the show. Undoubtedly, such shows do bring many talented men, women and children to the limelight, but is this the right way to do explore talent?  In many cases, the exploration turns to exploitation – especially for the young participants. They have to go through a grueling screening process, sustain a tremendous pressure to perform, and then handle a barrage of criticism from the celebrity judges.  I know in one dance show, a young girl couldn’t take the judges criticism anymore and had a nervous breakdown resulting in a paralytic fit. In several instances the young competitors sacrifice their education to continue the show. But the tragedy is, in most cases the winner is not judged by the celebrity panel whose criticism these young participants have to encounter, but rather by the audience through cell/mobile phone text messages (SMS). And in this process, the wireless carrier mints money. I am sure the show also gets their share of this income too.

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Banaprastha Rehearsals in Final Phase

Parijat (Subhodev) and Pallab (Shamyo) in BanaprasthaAfter a long preparation phase, the end is now in sight. In two weeks time, ECTA will be launching their latest production, “Banaprastha” or “The Retirement”. ECTA’s play have always generated interest amongst the theater lover audience of this area and “Banaprastha” is no exception. People are eagerly waiting for the new play with lot of expectation. We hope this play will live up to that.

“Banaprastha” will feature some of the regular performers of ECTA along with few new faces. Shamyo Goswami, a newcomer to New Jersey will be appearing for the first time on NJ stage. Although Shamyo’s primary interest is in film direction (he has directed and produced a Banga Tele-serial featuring some of the top actors of Bengali screen), he is also an excellent actor. Subhodev Das, after a long hiatus, will be performing the role of the protagonist character – Dr. Parijat Sen.  Another newcomer is Pradeep Ramdas. Although not a native Bengali speaker, his love for Bengali theater is no less than any Bengali. In India, Pradeep was involved with the street theater movement. Pradeep plays the role of Ashok Diwan, a young business man of Kolkata.  Kaninika Dutta’s debut in New Jersey theater was with Pratham Alo, where she acted in the key role of Bhumisuta. Kaninika, after a long break, returns to the stage as Sudeshna. Gargi Mukherjee, the well known actress (you cannot miss her in Mira Nair’s film – The Namesake) also returns to an ECTA production after a long time. She performed in ECTA’s first production “Phera” (The Return) in 2004 as a guest artist. In Banaprastha, she performs in the role of Suranjana – a character that will touch the hearts of many. Kaushik Dutta, who won the hearts of many with his role of Nando in “Ron”, will also feature in an important character role.

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Rutgers University Offers Training in Indian Music and Dance

The Mason Gross School of Arts at the Rutgers University in New Jersey is opening up a whole new department of Indian Dance and Music.  The program is being introduced with a concert of Indian music and dance on Sunday, June 28th from 2 to 3.45 p.m. at Nicolas Center, Cook Douglass Campus, Rutgers University, NJ featuring most of the faculty. The concert will be followed by a summer camp from Monday June 29th through Friday July 3rd with a daily schedule covering 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.   

The program is headed by Samir Chatterjee. The faculty includes:

Faculty:

Archana Joglekar Muley, Kathak

Arun Ramamurthy, Violin

Bani Roy, Odissi

Dibyarka Chatterjee, Percussion

Hidayat Khan, Sitar

Kalyani Ramani, Carnatic vocal

Kedar Naphade, Harmonium

Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, Hindustani vocal

Samir Chatterjee, Tabla

Sanghamitra Chatterjee, Popular vocal

Steve Gorn, Bansuri

Sudha Devulapalli, Bharatanatyam

Suresh Ramachandram, Mridangam

Samir Chatterjee will teach rhythm and yoga in addition to leading the audio-visual and discussion sessions.

Music Of India

A Musical Odyssey : Journey through history and Genres
A unique mehfil celebrating the diversity of raagdari and folk music from India’s different regions. Our journey will take us across India’s landscape, stopping at points of interest from the Himalayan Highlands to the backwaters of Kerala, from the havelis of Rajasthan to the flowing waters of Bengal, as distinguished artists perform the music of their heritage.

Ghazals, Bhajans, Taranas, Tillanas, Folk, Thumris, Dhrupad, Khayal, Kirtans, and more -
Featuring:

Dr. Mohan Deshpande
Mitali Banerjee-Bhawmik
Astha Shukla-Shrivastav
Kamala Ramamurthy
Bhupendra Gadhavi
Trupti Parikh
Uma Ramakrishnan
Kedar Naphade
Amod Dandawate

November 9, 2008, 4:00pm (sharp)

Hills Highlands Recreation Center/Clubhouse
75 Hansom Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Tel: (201) 447-6936, (908) 429-1120, (973) 539-5534
Donations of $15/adult & $7/below 18 years of age will be collected at the door. Limited seating, RSVP.
Limited parking at Venue. Street parking is allowed. Please look for the appropriate road signs.

Raag-Rang Presents Steve Gorn

On 16th November, at 3-30 p.m.

Raag- Rang presents a magical evening of

Hindustani classical music, featuring the master of sound magic Steve Gorn on bamboo flute.

Concert will start with two short vocal presentation by Anand Arikarevula

and Smt Girija Iyer accompanied by Shree Amod Dandawate on tabla and Smt

Indrani Chakrabarty Khare on harmonium.

Venue: Universal Unitarian Congragation Of Princeton.

50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton 08540.

Admission: non-members: $20.00(kids between 5-10 years $10.00).

Members: $15.00 (kids between 5 to 10 years $7.00).

Contact : (732)-241-7063, (609)-890-4890, (908)-240-8289 or

Email bhawmikm@gmail.com, mayuresh.khare@gmail.com,

dhu92@optonline.net

CAB Classical Music Concert


Cultural Association of Bengal
presents
A gala concert of classical Indian Music
On 13th September 2008, Saturday , 5 P.M.
at Q208, 74-13 commonwealth Blvd, Bellerose, NY 11426

Pt. Tarun Bhattecharya on Santoor accompanied by Abhishek Basu on tabla.
Eminent vocalist Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, accompanied by Sri Dibyarka Chatterjee on tabla and Sri Kedar Naphade on Harmonium.
Young vocalist Indrani Chakrabarty Khare will be recognized by cultural association of Bengal (C.A.B) for her achievement.
Suggested Donation $20.00, $35.00. Ample free parking inside the school premises.
Contact Number: 718-631-9819, 516-298-2454, 914-277-4662, 732-496-0385, 631-821-5684,
917-518-5484, 718-380-1373, 516-501-1966, 516-232-5124.
Direction: By subway/bus: E or F train to Union Tpk exit. Then Q46 bus to Cross Island Parkway stop. Enter school gate.
By car: (1) Grand Central Parkway (east) to Union Tpk exit. Right turn to Unin Tpk. School entrance between Cross island and commonwealth Blvd.
(2) Grand Central Park way (west) to Little neck PKway. Left Turn to Littleneck PKway. Go under Grand central PKway.Right turn on Littleneck PKway. Right turn again on Union Tpk.
School on right after crossing Commonwealth Blvd.
(3) Long Island Expressway to Littleneck Pky exit. Take Little Neck Pky (South). Go under Grand Central Pky and follow option 2.

Lopamudra Concert in New Jersey


Lopamudra MitraFew weeks ago, Lopamudra Mitra presented a concert at the Marlboro High School Auditorium at the invitation of the Dakshineshwar Ramkrishna Sangha Adyapeath (DRSA) of New Jersey. She was touring USA at the invitation of the Bangamela 2008 (held in Columbus OH) and before leaving the country, she made a brief visit to New Jersey. It was Lopamudra’s special attachment to Dakshineshwar Adyapeath that brought her to this fund raising concert. However, the audience response was only lukewarm at best. The torrential downpour before the concert may have contributed to the low attendance, but I think the major reason is the multiple events that are happening all around us during the summer season. Continue reading

Ananda Sandhya: Madhumita Saha


AT ANANDA MANDIR Artists of the month

MADHUMITA SAHA
Madhumita will be accompanied on Tabla by her husband, the illustrious
Tabla Maestro
Pandit Samar Saha

On the harmonium, it will be our own and very talented
Sri Kedar Naphade
Who has accompanied all prominent vocalists from India for many years

As you can see, this one will be memorable event presented by ANANDA MANDIR

Please come and share this fabulous musical evening.
As usual, the ANANDA SANDHYA concert is FREE, Children come free. However, your kind donation is always graciously accepted.

Ananda Mandir is located on Cedar Grove Lane off Easton Avenue in Somerset, NJ.
For info, call Arun Bhowmik at 908-672-1452.

Bhajan Sandhya at Anandamandir


On the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami (Sunday, August 24, 2008), Anandamandir will be hosting a four hour long (3.00pm to 7.00pm) event of Bhajans and Bhakti Sangeet.

Musicians are invited to participate (singers, accompanists) in this great event and be a part of the Anandamandir community.
If you would be interested to participate, then please send an email to suranjanbc@hotmail.com by Thursday, July 31, 2008. With your help and support this will be an enchanting evening of Bhajan and Bhakti Sangeet.

Rabindrasangeet Concert


It is our great pleasure to have The Famous Rabindra Sangeet Artist Pramita Mallick with us. We are organizing a Sangeet Anushthan for her honor on 20th of july (Sunday) at 5:30 pm. Please come and enjoy the evening with us.

Venue: 112 Monroe Ave, Edison, NJ 08820 (Sharmila & Sandip’s house )

Time: 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
There will be no ticket for this Anushthan but your willing contribution for the artist will be appreciated.

Please call me if you need anymore information and forward this mail to your friends who are interested.

My phone # 908-4228-6650(home) 908-787-6590 (cell)

Email id dastandra@yahoo.com or tandra1975@yahoo.com