Hindus partake in cultural celebration

AR-141009842 (1)One of Utica’s newest refugee groups celebrated a part of Dussehra — an important Hindu festival — Thursday and plans to do so again Friday for the first time since they began arriving in the city in 2009. When the Bhutanese government kicked the Bhutanese-Nepalese group — of which there are about 450 in Utica — out of its country in the early 1990s, they headed to Nepal. But the government there didn’t consider them citizens. “They stayed (in Nepal) for 18 years in refugee camps,” said Kathryn Stam, who called herself a friend of the community. “Then Utica took them.” The newly formed Association of Hindu Society helped put on the event, where on Thursday several gathered under a small structure in the room, burning incense, smashing coconuts, listening to prayer and sharing laughs and food. The celebration, called Durga Puja, is related to the 10-day Dussehra festival, which aims to commemorate past victories of important Hindu figures over various demons. In short, it’s a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. “In our body, there is a hidden strength and power which we can’t see,” said Pandit Ganga Rijal, the Utica Hindu community’s priest. “That power and strength is observed and ruled by our goddess Durga.” During Durga Puja, he explained, the group prays to and celebrates Durga in order to generate “enthusiasm and power in our body” and “to fight against demons and to establish truth in this world.” One attendee, 54-year-old Tham Bahadur Rai, is happy he’s able to practice his beliefs in the United States. “We had a fear that we might not be able to get to do all these activities in the United States because we believed it was all a Christian society,” he said. “Once we knew that we can do it, and we get to do it … that’s the way we can preserve our cultures and beliefs.” Twenty-nine-year-old San Rai, who came to the States in January 2011, said he’s excited to help carry on tradition. “We tried to manage this kind of program many times with no success,” San Rai said. “This time, we got a success … and I hope in the future we are going to celebrate this kind of program again.”

Source: uticaod.com