Chronicle of Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad
Out of a sense of adventure, Brojo Gopal (Kanu) Burman Roy, with a few Bengali People in Glasgow in 1970, formed a new organisation - understanding instinctively that there was a pressing need for all to re-embrace their important shared cultural roots. Initially, they started meeting at each other’s houses at the weekends, engaging in various activities, including: reading, singing, reciting, listening to Indian music, discussing serious political issues alongside the new cultural emergence in India; and sharing food and re-embracing the Indian way of life. From this assembly, the concept of the Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad (translated to English, known as the Bengali Cultural Association, or BSP in short) developed in the month of September, 1971. Kalyan Basu, B. G. Burman Roy, Gopinath Sen, Gurudas Biswas, Shibdas Chakraborti, Ashok Chakraborti and Pratima Sengupta formed the first Executive committee of the Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad. Kalyan Basu was the first President. A formal constitution was prepared & enforced in 1971. Then came along: Gora Chatterjee, Biswaprio Mukherjee, Jogen Ray, Mina Ray, Shyamal Sengupta, Ashok Banerjee, Nihar Banerjee, Shyamal Majumder; and many others.
In 1981, Pulak Mukherjee and Dipen Mukherjee started the very first Durga Puja – it was the only one in the whole of Scotland, taking place in the Glasgow Art Centre. Initially, a framed picture was used in place of the traditional Pratima - as getting this from India at that time was not possible. Asok Banerjee volunteered to be the priest and Leena Mukherjee assisted in the puja arrangements. The Parishad acquired a Pratima the following year. The puja was performed with Mahalaya & five days of conventional Durga Puja, along with Lakshmi Puja in the appropriate time. Thereafter, Nihar Banerjee and later Amal Chakraborti became the priest. Asha Mallik took over the auspicious task of arranging the Puja – a role which she is still continuing to fulfil to this very day. People from all over Scotland & the North of England attended the pujas in Glasgow, for this was the only locally based puja in those days. Initially, Durga Puja was performed separately outside the Parishad. As people from Edinburgh and Dundee, due to the distance, found difficulty in organising the Puja; Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad took this role over from them. Gradually, the Saraswati Puja, which was organised by the Glasgow Indian Students Association, was also brought under the Parishad’s banner.
The Executive Committee of Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad started a Bengali Language School in 1978 with a financial grant from Strathclyde Regional Council. Initially, this class had 12 pupils and Meena Ray was appointed as a teacher. Later, in 1979/1980, a music class was introduced with Shyamal Majumder as the music teacher. By the mid-1980s, the Parishad had a fully-fledged Bengali School under the watchful eye of Meena Ray, assisted by Sumona Roy and Shakuntala Datta. Mina Ray presented children to the GCSE Bengali exam. As the number of youngsters increased, since many parents desired that their children learn more of their original Indian culture, the Bengali school’s activities were extended to teaching music and dance – consequently, cultural programmes became regular diets of our Bengali Parishad. Shakuntala Datta started teaching music and dance at the Parishad’s request and children started performing at the annual programs. The Parishad started getting recognition for their quality performances and soon got invited to the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. The celebration of Glasgow as the City of Culture in 1990 gave them a further platform to display the fruits of their labour, for they were duly invited by various organisations from Dundee and Aberdeen. Later on, Kalpana Mukherjee was appointed to teach Bengali. Furthermore, in 1996, Amal Chakraborti and Haradhan Datta started the Kali Puja for the first time, which was brought under the BSP in the following year.
The Parishad started their annual magazine with a contribution of articles from their members, which the current committee is trying to revive. In addition to the activities it organises, the Parishad had a Library too, which sadly had to be handed over to the Mitchell Library, due to the lack of our own premises to accommodate such an important facility.
Currently BSP organises the following celebrations and activities: Mahalaya, Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Bijaya Sammelan, a Christmas Function, Naba-Barsha; and picnic/coach trips.
Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad is now a renowned association organising various activities. The Association has also received awards a few times including having organising the best Puja in the UK; this being aired in many countries including India.
Although, only a few people have been mentioned here - without the contribution of many other members the BSP could not have been such a fruitful organisation. We are grateful to all those who have not been mentioned – those who have worked incessantly to make our association something that we all feel so proud of.
Over the last few years, younger generations are coming forward to take over responsibilities, releasing the older generation to enjoy the Parishad’s activities- but also remain to provide their experience and advice. Hence, in this ‘changing of the guard’, we see that the torch of Bangiya Sanskritik Parishad will be borne in future for many years to come.