Amid the white snow, in the heart of London, breezed in “Faagun Fest‘ to wipe away blues.
Bengali organisations, London Sharad Utsav (LSU) and Bengal Heritage Foundation (BHF) come together yet again to put together an event utterly Bengali, but very new to this part of the world. Holi is a month away in India and Pous Mela has long been over. So how about punching the two festivals into something as innovative as the “Faagun Fest”?
On Sunday, Bengalis of London did just that and filled their platters with the sweet delicacies that are much associated with Makar Sankranti: “Pithey Utsav”, as part of the Faagun Fest. The attempt to recreate Bengal’s Pous Mela (with the pithey or sweetmeats that are cooked on the last day of the season) in February was an instant hit.
Never mind that London was shivering, the Bengali spring season warmed the hearts of the Indian community and had them enthusiastically attending the event hosted at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Partnering the event was British Council Kolkata, as part of an MoU signed up with LSU last year.
Pous Mela‘s history dates back to the 20th century when the Tagores and their Brahmo Samaj followers at Santiniketan in Bengal and has evolved as one of the events that Bengal is identified with.
The high point of “Fagun Fest”, conceived as a platform to extend the celebrations from Santiniketan to London for the Indian diaspora, was the musical performance by eminent Baul and Bengal folk artists from Bangla Natok who travelled all the way from Bengal. The artists, Sadhu Das Baul, Deepmoy Das, Arpan Thakur Chakraborty, regaled the audience with their folk songs and melody streaming from indigenous instruments like dotara and ektara.
Supporting the artists from Bengal were also performances from prominent UK artists – Tanusree Guha, Ranjana Roychowdhury Banerjee, Amith Dey and Arunava Bardhan. Speaking to TOI from London, Arpan said “Here, it didn‘t feel as if we were in foreign shores. It was like being surrounded by family. The journey together for extending folk music to the global platform will continue.”
The highlights of the evening was Quess East Bengal launching its merchandise. a significant initiative by LSU and BHF towards globalization of the Indian club football for tapping their huge fan base across the world. Present in the merchandise launch were legendary football player Chima
Okorie and Debashish Golder, head of Air India, UK. “This is indeed a proud moment for all football fans who are away from home – and being able to flaunt this red-yellow jersey adds on to the enjoyment for all East Bengal fans like me,” said Anirban Mukhopadhyay, LSU president.
Also present was Madur artist from Sarta Village of Sabang Block, West Midnapore, Nishikanta Das who also got the best artist award in “Masters Creation” held in Delhi. He presented beautiful creations of quintessential Bengali Mat – madur or natural fibre mats.
But the biggest draw were the various forms of pitheys (similar to pancakes) – one of the most celebrated sweets from Bengal. London based school teacher Gargi Ganguly Sarkar said, “I have recently joined LSU and this is my first big event which I am part of – I have never imagined I will be preparing “patishaptas” in bulk and serve so many guests, that too miles away from homeland”. There was delectable food by “Little Kolkata” – Indian Bengali restaurant in London.
“The feedback of Fagun Fest was brilliant. The audience loved the combination of soulful music, the food and exquisite handicrafts. Madurs were a huge hit amongst Londoners and were totally sold out. With the success of Fagun Fest this year, people are already asking will Fagun Fest be back next year?”- said Sourav Niyogi, BHF president.