After a vibrant inaugural Thames Durga Parade in London for Durga Puja last year, UK-based not-for-profit Heritage Bengal Global (HBG) is organising what it describes as an even bigger second edition of the popular parade.
Conceived to promote Kolkata Durga Puja as a global tourist destination, the Thames Durga Parade has made a mark with its pujo festivities among the diaspora in the UK since its launch in 2022. Starting with just one boat and the idol from Camden last year, the 2023 edition on October 28 will witness two large boats sailing along the River Thames. One boat will ride with the HBG idol of Medway Oikataan Cultural Association in their first festive outing in London and the second boat will play host to the Camden puja once again.
HBG President Anirban Mukhopadhyay, the brain behind the initiative, said: “Last year, we had one boat. This year, the number has doubled – I think we are not far away from a time when we will have five or six such boats sailing along the Thames on a particular day and time.
“Then we will achieve our goal of drawing the attention of the general public on the riverbanks and bridges to create a massive Durga Puja tourism opportunity for Bengal.”
Mukhopadhyay shares that the Thames Durga Parade has already piqued interest in West Bengal for tourism into London. Another big global initiative the HBG has undertaken is to bring pujo organisers onto one platform by connecting with Durga Pujas in 41 counties – from Japan to Brazil, Norway to New Zealand, exchanging thoughts and ideas through an active WhatsApp and social media exchange.
During next weekend’s parade, the HBG boat has been conceived as a melting pot of India with various state associations from Assam to Haryana sending in their representatives. Besides, the UK Hindu Cultural Association will be there in full force with five drums or dhaak as they are popularly known in Bangla. A unique feature of the parade this year will be bhatiali folk songs on the Thames by acclaimed folk singer from Bengal Sourav Moni.
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The parade has also received the support of business houses in West Bengal, including Partha Nandi of Lalbaba Rice extending a brand association partnership to the Lalbaba Rice Thames Durga Parade. Another successful Kolkata Business House, Techno India, represented by Satyam Roychoudhury, has extended support for the second consecutive year, along with Surajit Nandi of Floral.
Global Education Holdings (GEDU), a UK-based educational group, has been supporting HBG in their community initiatives through sporting and cultural events and is the Education Partner of the Parade.
HBG inhouse entrepreneurs include Tushar Das Ghose, from IT company Etos, Shubhankar Mukherjee with his brand Earthwise dealing with environment-friendly products, and Aparup Bose. Pointers Business Forum, a platform of entrepreneurs of the ex-students of Kolkata’s South Point School, is another partner of HBG for all its events. HBG members Priyanka Burman, Yashmita Choudhury and Arati Das are working closely with vice-president Mahua Bej for the decoration of the boat.
“Last year was a good learning experience and this time we are taking them into consideration and make the boat look pretty and ethnic with the artefacts we are creating,” shares Mahua.
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Reflecting the Kolkata-London bonding, this year’s parade will see the launch of the centenary celebrations of the Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC) event to be held in Kolkata in November, supported by London Rowing Club (LRC) on the HBG boat. Members of CRC and LRC will symbolically flag off the Kolkata event on the Thames, making it a unique Indo-British experience.
*Info: Heritage Bengal Global