By Desiree Williams
Bengali Association of Indiana members from across the state gathered at Spring Mill Elementary School April 13 to celebrate the Bengali New Year.
“It’s just reliving what we have left behind in our country of origin,” said Anushree Bag, a Carmel resident and president of BAI.
BAI was founded in 1985 with the goal to uphold the culture and values of Bengal, an eastern state in India, and foster cooperation between members and the local community. The nonprofit focuses on health, poverty, arts and education and dedicates time to teaching Bengali children who have grown up in the U.S. about their heritage.
BAI also participates in philanthropy, having donated to Riley Children’s Foundation, School on Wheels and Ronald McDonald House, among oranizations.
“We carry on the mantel of making sure that our heritage and our own culture and values are upheld, but we also want to be very socially responsible in the state where we’re living and the community that gives us so much and making sure that we give back at every opportunity,” Bag said.
Each year, the organization plays host to three main events: one in the winter to worship the goddess of learning, another in spring to celebrate the New Year, and the five-day Durga Puja festival in the fall. BAI partners with Kentucky and Ohio for the Tri-State Durga Puja, and the hosting duties follow a four-year cycle. BAI last played host in 2016.
“People who are from India miss that (the culture is) not there in their everyday life, so the organization supports them that way,” Bag said.
Bag said there are between 250 and 300 Bengali families in Indiana. Although the organization is open to all, about 80 percent of membership comes from Carmel, the city Bag calls home as well.
Bag joined the organization shortly after moving to Indiana in 1998 with her family. She will complete her four-year term as president in August.