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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Celebrating the Bengali New Year

Hanshi Khushi club  (of Ashland and neighboring towns) celebrated the Bengali new year on May 11 New Year 2024 at 6 pm at St. John’s Parish, Hopkinton, MA.
Bengali is a language spoken in the state of West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. The members of Hanshi Khushi club are diaspora from those regions and currently live in Ashland and surrounding towns. Through cultural activities Hanshi Khushi Ashland -literally meaning smiling, happy people - celebrates multifaceted art and art performance of Bengal.
Living in Ashland, some members reached out to each other during Covid. In times of isolation, communities such as Bengalis and those speaking the language found purpose in reaching out to what was familiar and missing in the home far away from home. This is how the club was created. Members continued to meet as the world re-entered the post-Covid era and found greater meaning in celebrating together festivities and performances that Bengal is famous for.
As one of the first events organized by the club, they decided to celebrate the Bengali New Year called “Poila Baisakh” which fell on April 14 this year. This is a significant date as the year begins – there is rejoicing as the new year is welcomed by singing songs and performing dance, eating food and seeking blessings from elders.
School vacations and availability of venues determined that the celebration be organized at a later date. On May 11, St. John’s Parish in Hopkinton became a hub for festivity as people came in wearing resplendent saris (clothes worn by Indian women) and kurtas (shirt/tunic worn by men) and colorful wear as is custom and enjoyed being together for a cultural purpose.
Emceed by Sutapa and Samik Sengupta – leaders of the organizing committee, welcomed one and all. One of the first performances was by children who welcomed the season. They matched their steps to the song with such grace and elegance that it was a sight to see!
Michael Herbert, Ashland Town Manager graced the occasion with words of support and encouragement for the group. As a planned surprise he presented a token gift of appreciation and recognition to group member Sharmita Bhattacharjee for participating in the Boston Marathon this year. For the group, this was a moment of great pride.
As tribute to the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, who incidentally was also from Bengal, an audio play “Khyatir Birombana” was performed. It received a lot of applause and appreciation. Tagore’s songs have a soulful cadence and often are replicated in Bollywood music. A group of talented group members sang original songs by Tagore, followed by the Hindi versions that have been used in Bollywood films. This was such a treat and took the audience down memory lane.
In celebrating the divine feminine power, an amalgam of two Indian classical dances – Odissi and Kathak was performed with exquisite rhythm and energy. The dance forms evoked a sense of surrender to divine power as the movements were presented with finesse and utmost elegance. These are never-before-seen performances and added so much value to the cultural experience.
Philomela , a band that has been in existence since over a decade performed their foot tapping numbers. The audience was enthralled by the vocals and the accompanying guitar and tabla performance. It was hard to sit still as some members took to the dance floor.
What was a celebration of Bengali new year was also an opportunity to showcase the multiple classical forms of dance and music from India. This was an event that truly represented the diverse forms of performing arts that immigrants respond to and remind them of continuing their traditions, providing new learning opportunities and sharing with those who are not part of this culture.