HINDUS from across Swindon turned up to honour the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom yesterday.
A group of people from the town’s Bangladeshi community, supported by Indian restaurants, marked the Saraswati Puja, a festival devoted to the goddess Saraswati, at The Platform in Faringdon Road – the first of its kind held in Swindon.
Yesterday saw collective prayers and offerings in front of a statue of the deity, which was installed in pride of place in the venue after being shipped especially from Calcutta.
The main celebration will be tomorrow, starting at 6pm, with a sumptuous dinner, followed by dancing and singing, plus a raffle draw.
Swapan Roy, the president of the Swindon Puja Committee, said: “This is the first time we have organised the Puja.
“It’s one of the most remarkable festivals in our culture and particularly children usually get involved.
“Every year in the past we have gone to London to celebrate this occasion and it’s very difficult for us to travel from here to London in a group.
“Also our Bangladeshi community – whether they’re Hindu or Muslim – everyone wanted to stage this programme in Swindon and share the festival with us.
Because the Bangladeshi and Indian community are quite big now, they wanted to stage here rather than going to London.”
Yesterday, worshippers in traditional robes made offerings of flowers, food and a book – symbolising wisdom to the deity, and burnt incense. This was followed by collective prayers.
Sujan Saha, 32, the festival’s cultural secretary, said: “The goddess is for knowledge and wisdom. You offer with a book. It means the goddess will give more wisdom to us, so it means we have more knowledge and genius.”
The community raised £5,000 to stage the festival. Also in attendance tomorrow will be Swindon’s deputy mayor, Coun Nick Martin and Miss Swindon Ela Good.