On Sunday, May 22nd Bengali Cultural Association of Arizona and Indo-American Foundation of Arizona celebrated Discover Bengal Festival at the IACRF hall in North Phoenix. This is an event in the series that celebrates the cultural heritage, food and diversity of different Indian states. Previous events by the same organization celebrated Discover Karnataka and Gujrat Swarnim cultural festivals.
The Discover Bengal event was a five hour long cultural extravaganza featuring food, jewelry and song and dance performances celebrating the cultural heritage of the state of West Bengal in Eastern India. The celebrations also coincided with the 150th Birth Anniversary of one of Bengal’s celebrated poets; Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore, well known in the Western world for his collection of poems called “Gitanjali” or an offering of songs; was a poet, song writer and playwright extraordinaire. Sunday’s cultural program featured many songs and dances from Tagore’s collections. Also featured were poet Kaji Nazrul Islam’s songs as part of the poet’s birth anniversary celebrations during the month of May.
No Bengali celebration can take place without food!!!! The Discover Bengal festival featured an assortment of mouth watering street food, appetizers and sweets sold by BCAA members in the food stalls. The street food included vegetarian items like jhal muri (puffed rice mix), samosas, vegetable chops (cutlets) and non vegetarian items like fish fry and chicken pakoras. A stall selling tart water filled phuchkas (also called golgappas and pani puris) did brisk business. Bengalis are renowned for their sweet tooth and the sweets offered at the festival included rasagollas (white cheese balls in dumplings), kamalabhog (orange balls in syrup) and laddoos. Unlimited cups of steaming hot tea kept the mood in full swing.
Many singers sang old Bengali songs of yesteryears. The crowd rooted for each number and wanted more. A demonstration of a Bengali wedding with its traditional attire and customs along with the sound of conch shells had everyone clapping. A fashion parade showcased the different costumes, clothes and saris worn by Indian men and women from Bengal. It was very informative and much appreciated by the audience. The show wrapped up with a song and dance performance celebrating “Creation”. The performers wove Tagore’s poems and songs in a narrative describing the creation of the universe and the eternal process of life and death. Overall, a very enjoyable evening.
The above mentioned organizations organize such festivals from time to time. If you are interested in being part of these festivals that showcase Indian food and traditions you can get the information from their website. The information is below.
Indo American Cultural and Religious Foundation of Arizona
2809 West Maryland Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85017
Bengali Cultural Association of Arizona