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First-of-its-kind Hindu festival in North Dakota coming to Fargo

Durgotsav 2022, held at the El Zagal Shrine on Saturday, Oct. 1, is a Hindu festival that celebrates female empowerment.

A colorful statue of Durga, who symbolizes divine good over evil in the Hindu religion. Shows a woman with eight arms in elaborate costume, along with her children and various animals
This statue was shipped to Fargo for the Durgotsav 2022 festival happening Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at the El Zagal Shrine in Fargo. The statue is of Durga, who symbolizes divine good over the evil Mahishasura, shown at her feet.
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FARGO — A day-long event that’s been a year in the making will bring together Bengalis from the region for a first of its kind festival in North Dakota.

Durgotsav 2022 will be held at the El Zagal Shrine in Fargo, 1429 3rd St. N., on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m.

One of the major Hindu festivals, Durgotsav is similar to Christmas, celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike.

Aparupa Chatterjee is an Indian dancer and president of the newly-formed Durga Puja Association of North Dakota, which is organizing the event.

“We wanted to come together to start a cultural experience that was not there until now,” she said.

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The association’s mission is to spread and preserve the heritage, philosophy and tradition of Bengali culture through this festival.

Most often celebrated in Bengal, the region made up of West Bengal and Bangladesh, the festival is typically a 10-day event in September and October.

The festival in Fargo will condense the last five days of celebration into one, to include worship, Indian foods, kids games, dance, music and a fashion show.

The event is focused on Durga, a major Hindu goddess who represents female power and strength, Chatterjee said.

A huge idol or statue of Durga has been shipped to Fargo just for this event, she said.

The day begins at 8 a.m. with worship and prayer led by a revered monk, Swami Chandrashekharananda, who’s traveling to Fargo from the Vedanta Society of Portland, Oregon.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney will inaugurate the festival at 9 a.m.

A lunch, snack and dinner will be catered by the Fargo restaurant, Passage to India, and many varieties of homemade Indian sweets will be served.

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There will be multiple forms of dance, including Dandiya, which anyone can do and is performed as a large group.

Dhunuchi dance is performed holding an earthen pot containing coconut husk and the Indian equivalent of frankincense, which is lit on fire and releases a purifying smoke.

“It brings in the spirituality of the festival,” Chatterjee said.

Another attraction is Sindur Khela, which translates to “vermillion game,” where women smear a cosmetic powder of vermillion red pigment on each other, which is supposed to bring good luck.

In Bengal, women wear the powder in a circle on their forehead to signify they are married.

“We put that on the cheeks of girls or women to signify women power,” Chatterjee said.

About 275 people were pre-registered for the event, including Bengali families from Fargo-Moorhead and the Grand Forks area, but the event is open to everyone.

Tickets at the door are $40 for non-students and $25 for students; general admission without a ticket is allowed up until 1 p.m.

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Up until now, local Bengalis had to travel to Hindu temples in the Twin Cities to attend such a festival, or simply mark those cultural activities at home, Chatterjee said.

The festival will not only provide momentum for this to become a growing and more prominent event, she said, but will gradually attract more Indians from all over the Midwest to Fargo.

Durgotsav 2022 schedule for Saturday, Oct. 1

8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Worship

1 p.m. — Serving of Bengali sweets and fruits

2 to 3:30 p.m. — Lunch

4:30 to 5:30 p.m. — Dandiya and Dhunuchi dance

5:30 p.m. — Snacks

6:30 to 8:30pm — Cultural program, music, fashion show, dance

9 p.m. — Dinner

A previous version of this story gave an incorrect number of people pre-registered for the event. About 275 people were pre-registered.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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