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Being an ex-student of Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore, (located at Santiniketan, India), what I treasure most apart from the highly cultural and creative value oriented educational system, is the Anandamela/Anandabajar( Ananda in bengali means Happy and Mela/bajar means Fair).Though each and every festival of the university is worth to value, AnandaMela is exclusively different. It takes place on the auspicious day of Mahalaya , when each and every student would wake up early in the morning almost before the sunrise by themselves and rush to the university campus to gather the iron railings and Bamboo poles to build their own little shop. And the evening will be an out burst of crowd and creation. This little fair is the heart of all the functional activities which the students of Visva Bharati cherish most. This little fair is the effusion of the hidden originative potentialities and energies of the all ages students.
The biggest and most auspicious festival of the Bengalis is the Durga Puja or Durgotsov. It is widely celebrated in all over the world where ever you will see a bengali community is gathered up. Mahalaya, an auspicious occasion which is also know as Devi-bandana, is considered as the first day of Durga puja, heralds seven days prior to the main Puja.
"Mahalaya is a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth. We bengali never can think Mahalya with out listening to the early morning radio program called “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon.” This All India Radio (AIR) program is a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama." (Ref: http://hinduism.about.com/cs/audiomusic/a/aa092003a.htm)
For the students of Visva- Bharati this auspicious day of Mahalaya is the most awaited cherishing moment prolonged with a planned project to be materialized on Mahalaya. This is a little fair where only students participate. The most glorious part of this little fair is that only homemade food and own handmade crafts will be sold. The students from the nursery to the college will be seen busy in selling their own hand made products. And all the fund comes out of this fair will be donated to the Poor Fund. It always takes place in the open area of Patha-Bhavan school campus, known as Gour Prangan.
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As the enchanting invocation of goddess durga gets over, the sun -rise starts to paint the morning sky, all the students will be seen running out of their home towards the school campus. A distant sound of Dhak(Click) will keep on spieling in the campus. The romance of the music will make the area spell bounded and every body will keep on forging in that rhythm. Each group will be first divided in to two groups, one group will go to collect the iron railings which are stood through the eternity holding each others hand and protecting the huge playground of the campus. This is the day those are departed from each other and travel for a while in the fair land. The other group will stand in the queue of a particular office of the university that will be supplying the bamboo poles. A spot is always reserved beforehand for each shop. So the next step is to build up the shop and decorate it. For each shop one teacher is always there to assist them. After the shop is built the shopkeepers will fly to their houses to borrow bed sheets or saris from their mother to cover and decorate their shops. And mothers are always ready in advance with all the handy material that will be called for. In decorating the shops the students will show their utmost art of creativity. They will make beautiful hoardings, price lists/menu cards, lovely crafts hanging from the top etc. After the shop is decorated then the turn comes to take some rest and have lunch. If it is a handicraft stall then it is quite relaxing. But if it is a Food stall then the mothers have lot of works to do. The moms will help the kids to prepare the dishes whatever have come to their part. In the late afternoon the stalls would start to shine bright with the creative foodie goodie crafts and the excited radiant shop keepers who are ready to trade. The residents of Santiniketan will all amalgamate in this fair to cheer up the new sellers. The romance of the evening is beyond explanations. The lights, the sound of the Dhak and the attractively dressed up people make the fair more gorgeous than ever. Food stalls are always very tempting that the crowd denotes. Mostly the crowd will bee around the food counters. But the handicraft stalls are more to be seen like an astounding exhibition. You will become amazed by seeing creative crafts mainly of the little brains. Small houses or cars or mini furniture made out of match boxes/card board, greetings cards, bags, dolls, wall hangings, etc . You will get endless ideas how many beautiful creative things can be made and out of wasted stuffs too. That day whatever crafts are made becomes too precious for everybody. All the shoppers would visit each stall and make the sellers face more bright by buying something. In the nursery stall the parents will buy their kids' hand made crafts and the teachers are amazing too who always remember which craft belongs to whom. The fair ends up counting the profit and giving the responsibility of the money to the teacher and return back to home after dismantling the shop and collecting their own stuffs to return safely to the mothers.
It will look like a simple fair organized by school and college students. But now I feel the truth hidden behind the purpose. It helps to work in a group and to make a united world. It helps to make strong bonding between the friends, with the teachers and also with the parents. Cooperation and coordination are hidden key tools of this fair. This fair diminishes the gender crises and show that both genders have the same capability to work. You will never feel forced to join this fair but your creative instinct will instigate you to build up a memory for you. Every year the fair will teach how to become more responsible and more creative. It infuses in the individual a kind of leadership quality to conduct a team and take decisions. A memory which in future you are going to share with the world.
I feel proud when I say I belong to this amazing world. Every year this day of Mahalaya makes me cry. I miss my friends, my teachers, my parents and the enchanting Anandamela. I am not sure when again I would be able to visit the fair. And I feel too sad that my daughter will never be the part of this world. But I also know this that my creative instinct will always try to show her the parts of this world everytime. A world where the self potentiality is always scooped out in an unusual manner with out knowing that ever existed within us. The world would infuse creativity in your blood and your education will be shown up not as a bookish knowledge but the noesis which you have learned from the nature. I have seen my husband how he misses those 4-5days of Durga Puja. He will always keep on telling me about the gorgeously decorated pandals of Kolkata, the huge Idols of the Gods and Goddesses, the extended rituals, the food etc. But I have only one day to treasure and would love to share that gives me all the spirits of Durga Puja. Durga Puja means to me Mahalaya and Mahalaya means Ananda Mela.
Shubho Mahalaya & Happy Durga Puja to all of you...
Sending this to Pree's Beyond Five Days of Durga Puja .