In 1973 a few like-minded Bengalis in South Wales arranged Saraswati Puja in the house of a Doctor in Nelson, Mid Glamorgan. This was probably the first recorded Sarbajanin Puja in Wales. A few Indian families, mostly doctors who were working in the south east of Wales, attended it. There, amongst other things the idea of doing Durga Puja later in the year was seeded and 3 doctors and their families decided to organise Durga Puja, which was held in the bedroom of Dr & Mrs Sen in Nelson. The puja was performed by Dr Chatterjee and on a painted canvas of Durga (Chal Chitra) brought from Calcutta.
In 1974 the first Sarbajanin Durga Puja was held in 28 The Parade, Roath, Cardiff with active participation of nearly 10 families and the priest being the late Dr Acharya. The name of Wales Puja Committee was established many years later (around 1982). Mr Ghatak sculpted a clay Durga Protima in Cardiff, which was subsequently worshipped by Wales Puja Committee till 1990,. Most of the events during 1981 – 1990 were at 28 The Parade, Roath in Cardiff. During the Durga Puja families from all over South Wales (approximately 100 -125) came and one of the main features was communal cooking. Initially all participants brought some food cooked at home but as the numbers grew, cooking at the premises was planned which necesseciated a change of venue. For several years communal cooking took place in the basement of the Parade during Durga Puja.
In 1990 for the first time, a new Durga Protima was brought from Kumartuli, Kolkata and for the first time a high quality Image of Goddess Durga and her children was displayed and worshipped by Wales Puja Committee. This was a unique experience. A packed Protima arrived directly at the venue (St. David’s Hospital, community hall) in Cardiff on a Sashthi afternoon from Southampton port. In 1992 for the first time in the UK, Wales Puja Committee organised Immersion of Protima in Cardiff. This was the Protima made by Mr Kamal Ghatak in 1981. Six WPC members went on a Boat into the Bristol Channel and performed VISARJAN 2 km. from the shore.
By 2000 we had our second Durga Protima from Kumartuli, Kolkata and it was conceived that we could try to get a Protima made in Cardiff by the sculptors from Bengal. After many meetings and deliberations both in Cardiff and also in Kolkata, a project called “ MAKING OF DURGA” was conceived. Financial support from The Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff 2008 (City Council) was secured.
In 2002, two sculptors from Krishnagar, Bengal came to Cardiff courtesy a Crafts Council of Bengal sponsorship. For the First time in the UK and probably in the western world, a five piece clay image of Goddess Durga and her associates was made from Hay / Clay and all natural materials. This 3 week long project was held in the Old Library, Hayes, Cardiff and attracted tremendous local support and enthusiasm.
We worshipped this Image from 2003-2008. In 2009 the idea of “ Making of Goddess Durga – From Papier Mache” project was conceived. The National History Museum of Wales in St Fagans and the Arts Council of Wales supported the project which washeld in March – April 2009 in Oriel1 room of the National History Museum of Wales. This project was conceived and completed in close association with National Museum and Wales Puja committee. We had Dibyendu and Purnendu Dey (two brothers), renowned artists from Burdhwan, West Bengal here in Cardiff for 3 weeks buiding the images. The logistics for the project were very kindly provided by Art Works, Cwmbran and funding by The Arts Council of Wales, Lottery Fund and of course National History Museum. At the same time the Wales Puja Committee donated the previous Pratima to The National History Museum of Wales to use as a permanent display in the Museum for local art research, interfaith education and displaying the practice of Hinduism in South Wales.
Our Puja’s and festivals are renowned for homeliness and welcome for new comers. We do on-site cooking for 5 days during Durga Puja and also during Kali Puja, Diwali and Saraswati Puja where we provide daytime and evening meals for over 200 people every day. In recent years we have had many younger members joining and showing tremendous enthusiasm. This is very encouraging and an excellent development for our future.
Over the years we have lost several of our senior and founder members and their close associates namely Dr Shantanu Sengupta, Dr Rajat Dutta, Christine Mackay, Dr Ranadhir Dutta, Mr Sidhnashu Palit, Mrs Tara Acharya and Dr Acharya. They had been a source of inspiration for the Wales Puja committee and its events.
Two distinguished local Bengali members, namely Mr K L Chatterjee and Mr A M Misra, do our present Pujas.
Anyone is welcome in our festivals and Pujas irrespective of their religious, cultural or social beliefs. We encourage young Asians to come forward and join our organisation.