By Priya and Lajwanti Purswaney
For Indians around the world, October heralds the start of the festival season. Hindus follow the lunar calendar, and although the dates of most festivals vary from year to year, quite a few of them fall in the months of October and November. Members of the Indian diaspora residing overseas continue to celebrate these traditions while away from their homeland so that the younger generations do not forget their roots. To mark these occasions, Indians in Taiwan also organize special events where guests can come and experience Indian culture and traditions. After telling readers a little bit about the different festivals, we will provide information on where and how people can attend the upcoming festivities around Taiwan. Please visit the Facebook pages of the organizers for more details(listed at the end of the article).
Activities begin with a popular North Indian festival known as Navraatri (meaning “nine nights”). This involves the nine-day worship of the Hindu Goddess in her nine forms by fasting during the day and celebrating with Dandiya and Garba, traditional dances from Gujarat, at night. There will be two events in Taipei to celebrate Dandiya, organized by the Taiwan Indian’s Club and the Indians’ Association of Taipei respectively.
This same festival is observed as Durga Pooja in West Bengal and neighboring states. One of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in western India, Durga Pooja marks the victory of the Goddess over the demons. The nine forms of Durga are worshipped individually each day usually in front of a huge statue of of the Goddess. To Hindus, a woman is considered to be a source of shakti (courage and strength) and hence her existence is celebrated during these nine days of prayers. The Tenth day is known as Dussehra, another well-known festival of India. There will be not one, nor two, but three separate multi-day events with prayers, performances and Indian cuisine to celebrate Durga Pooja in northern Taiwan, as summarized below:
1. Taiwan Bengali Association (TBA) Durga Puja will be on October 6th and 10th in Neihu. Click on the Sharod Utsav 2019 button to register.
2. Durga Puja and Dussehra 2019, Taipei is the other event on October 6th and 12th in Xizhi. Details are in the event page.
3. Hsinchu Durga Puja 2019 will be held at National Tsing Hua University on October 5th and 6th. More details can be found at Hsinchu Durga Puja
A special series of events this year will be the installation of two statues of Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated ancient Tamil poet and philosopher best known for authoring the Thirukkuṛaḷ (Sacred Verses) which has been translated into over eighty languages. This collection of couplets on ethics and love resembles the Confucian Analects, and it was translated into Chinese by Taiwanese poet Yu Hsi in 2014. The Taiwan Tamil Sangam will host a series of events in Taipei and Hualien in October, including a Tamil conference and cultural program with about thirty visiting scholars from India on October 20th. Please visit the TTS page for details.
The celebration period concludes with Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of lights, often considered the beginning of a new year. Hindus clean up their houses, and decorate them with lights and rangoli (colored powder or flower designs outside homes). People prepare sweets and savories to welcome friends and relatives, while children light crackers and receive gifts. Laxmi (the Hindu Goddess of wealth) is believed to visit homes that welcome her with lights and sweets, showering her grace on all those within. There will be many celebrations around Taiwan in October and November to mark Diwali, and more information will be shared on the website of the India Museum, Taiwan.
Last and most important, the annual Asia Indian Cultural Festival will be held from 23rd to 29th November at the Dream Community and at Chiang Kai- shek Memorial Hall auditorium. This year, the main performance will be a world-famous dance drama, Bhavahara, a celebrated and outstanding dance ballet in the essence of the Maharabata, presented by the Indian Institute for Performing Arts of Bahrain. The festival is a cultural exchange event in its 19th year. Artists from India and other Asian countries converge on Taiwan to showcase India in a unique way. For tickets to the show on 29th October at CKS, please check the IiT – Indians in Taiwan Facebook page.
For Indians overseas, all these festivals and events are a celebration of our life, our culture, our traditions, and our cuisine. They are a time of reunion and rejuvenation, of the rebirth of our spiritual selves, the season to love, share and care.
Taiwan Indians Club: www.facebook.com/ Taiwanindian
Indians’ Association of Taipei: www.facebook. com/IATtaiwan/
Taiwan Bengali Association (TBA): www.facebook. com/groups/taiwan.bengali.association
Durga Puja in Taiwan: www.facebook.com/durga. puja.taiwan/
Hsinchu Durgapuja: www.facebook.com/hsinchu. durgapuja
Taiwan Tamil Sangam: www.facebook.com/ groups/taiwantamilsangam/
India Museum Taiwan: www.facebook.com/ IndiaMuseumTaiwan/
IiT-Indians In Taiwan: www.facebook.com/ IndiansInTaiwan/
Priya is an experienced English Chinese interpreter, translator,
event host, entrepreneur, and admin of the Facebook groups IiT (Indians in Taiwan) and FIT (Friends in Taiwan). As a long- term Taipei resident, she volunteers at various organizations including the India Museum to promote better understanding of Indian culture. She also runs her own translation company (www.facebook.com/PriyaTranslator/).
Lajwanti works at a leading bank in the UAE, and was visiting family in
Taipei last month when she was asked to cowrite this article. Poetry and prose are her hobbies and come naturally when she’s happy or affected by things, people or places.