Durga Puja: Celebrating ‘Divinity in Every Woman’ – PK Mahanandia


“You have united all the hearts. Because it is our identity. As a child I had been many times in Odisha in celebrating Durga (Puja), Mother Durga. It is not only celebrating, it is actually celebrating the divine mother. The divinity in every woman,” said PK Mahanandia after inaugurating the two-day festival by lighting a traditional lamp. Durga Puja is celebrated in Gothenburg on 12th and 13th October 2019. It is organised by Bengali Association of Gothenburg.  After making observations about Durga Puja, PK Mahanandia looked at his wife, Charlotte von Schedvin, and said, she is my goddess. He said every woman is a real Durga in this world, and she can do more things.

The focus of Durga Puja is worshipping of Goddess Durga: the cosmic mother and the divine mother; who also descended to earth to slay the demon Mahishasura who epitomised evilness.

PK Mahanandia is a Swedish citizen but of Indian ancestry and heritage. While practising as a street painter in New Delhi’s Connaught Circus he met Charlotte von Schedvin. Subsequently, for her, he cycled from India to almost Sweden in the late 1970s. Their love story and solid married life continues to appeal and charm many in Sweden and around the world. Their love story is going to be a screenplay for a movie: who is going to produce and who is going to direct it is still under wraps. Bengali Association of Gothenburg invited the couple as the chief guests. The couple spent most of the first day at the venue hall: Backa Folkets Hus.

The organizers have installed five idols on the stage (pandal): Lord Ganapathi or Ganesh, Goddess Lakshmi or Lakhi, Goddess Durga, Goddess Sarawathi and Lord Karthik. The main idol is the one in the centre among the five idols and it is the biggest one – Goddess Durga. The festival is also the celebration of homecoming of her four children. In addition to the idols, the walls of the venue hall were decorated with handmade art works that are made from recycled materials.

PK Mahanandia praised Triranta Sircar and the other organizers of Bengali Association of Gothenburg for coming up with a creative thought – to do something creative from their hearts and to do that with joy, and with love.

Joydeep Das, software developer and architect at Extenda Retail AB in Gothenburg, said the way Durga Puja is celebrated in India differs in different ways depending upon where one comes from but the common factor is to bring joy to children, and to connect with one another wherever they are. He is a Bengali-speaking Indian but from Silapathar town in Dhemaj district in the northeastern state of Assam. He has been involved in organising cultural activities of Bengali Association of Gothenburg for over two years. “When we are here we miss some aspects of our childhood … all those things as young kids we used to celebrate,” he reflected. “With the festival – we feel like we are connected (in Sweden), and be helpful to the new generation who will see how it (Durga Puja) is.”

This is the second year that Bengali Association of Gothenburg is celebrating Durga Puja in succession. Unlike many other cultural, linguistic and regional organisations of India operating in Sweden, this association brings unity in purpose as a team by rising above the divisions of caste and clan, district and state.

The cultural event of the festival was packed with audience who were not only Bengalis but people from different parts of India, and Gothenburgers from Sweden and other parts of the world.

Balancing life between identity and integration is one of the toughest aspects for an immigrant.