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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2041

History & Devi Durga Puja in Bangladesh

By Rabindranath Trivedi

History records that grand celebration of Durga Puja in present form began in late 1500s. There are many folk tales about the first Durga Puja in Bengal. Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur organized the first autumn Durga Puja in Bengal.

Tahirpur is a municipal town of Bagmara upazila under the district of Rajshahi. It is situated on the bank of the river Barahi or Barnai. It is said that, Tahirpur has been named after a certain Pathan fief-holder Tahir Khan. It is a very old zamindari. It came into being in the beginning of the 15th century. Its founder was one Kamdev Bhatta, a Barind Brahmin who ousted the Pathan fief-holder Tahir Khan and laid the foundation of the zamindari during the independent Sultanate period (1338-1538) of Bengal.

The most noted zamindar of Tahirpur was Raja Kansa Narayan, son of Hari Narayan. It is recorded that by spending taka nine lakhs he arranged for the gorgeous celebration in modern fashion of Durga Puja festival in Bengal. The Hindu leaders of Bangladesh in a puja reunion meeting at Tahirpur Durga Mandap in October 2013 extended gratitude to the Awami League Government for releasing the property from Vested Property and hand over to the Hindus for performing religious rotes there, The Hindus appeal to Sheikh Hasina’s government to declare 500- years’ old heritage site of Tahirpur Durga Mandir as the ‘National Durga temple of Bangladesh’ and build tourist facilities and amenities there to make it an international tourist site.

Another story says the landlords or zamindars of Dinajpur and Malda initiated the first Akchala Durga Puja in Bengal. While the third states that the first grand Puja was organised by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of Calcutta in honour of Lord Clive in 1757. Earlier the puja was organised only by the rich families who had the resources to spend on elaborate worship. In the late 19th and 20th century, the middle class in Calcutta and East Bengal brought about a transformation and started the tradition of Community Puja or Sarbojanin Puja.

The Community Puja is organized by each and every locality where a committee collects fund from the people to meet the expenses for the pandal construction, sculpture preparation, ceremonies, etc. It involves feasting, organization of games for children and other activities for all the people of the locality. The creation and ornamentation of the sculpture is marked by rites and rituals. The clay used for the sculpture of Goddess Durga is collected from the banks of river. There is an old custom of mixing a handful of soil collected from the locality of sex workers and then making the sculpture.

It may be mentioned here during Bangladesh War Hindus as evacuees in relief camps in India also observed Durga Puja in 1971. I was then at war could remember all those days in 1971. Pakistan had declared emergency in November 24 and made a formal declaration of war with India on December 4,1971The whole Hindu refugees were on the street. Chanting ,’Joy Bangla’ Women repeatedly sounding ’ULU’ as if Devi Durga was marching to face Demon Mohishasura. More than hundred Durga puja pandels were erected in the refugee camps. It may be mentioned here Indira is also one of name of Devi Durga. The Liberation War of Bangladesh is the most memorable event in her brief history as it brought about her independence.

To win this freedom, three million people had to shed their blood. Almost the entire population, barring a few, of the then East Pakistan rose in revolt against Pakistan's military regime. The triumph of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh was not theirs alone. As Mrs. Indira Gandhi said, 'All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man's quest for liberty'. The Hindus belief was then in a final burst of triumph, the truth must pinned devil force like Mahishashur down with her foot drove the trident into his heaving chest as he strove to hold back his escaping life-breath. Thus the demon met his doom in December 1971 gazing into truth frenzied eye; for the glance reread demon force doom—and deliverance’.

The present day Puja committees in Dhaka and other parts of the country depend on doles of government and protection of law enforcing agencies.

The Hindus in Bangladesh usually organize Puja mondaps and display communal harmony in the name of Puja once a year like other festivals but in reality, besides begging, there is no security and political and economic power to earn for them.

In Bangladesh, Hindus cannot perform their religious rites openly and loudly at home and in public. Hindus are insulted and threatened if they do so. Miscreants vandalised five Durga Puja pandals in Kishoreganj district, bdnews24.com reported Thursday, September 25, 2014. Idols of these five Puja pandals were also damaged. "This is a heinous incident. This is the first time something like this has happened in Kishoreganj the local Hindus are in panic," said president of the district's Durga Puja Celebration Council. This is common incidents around Bangladesh when Devi Durga puja comes annually Hindus remain panic and tension stricken.

Everyday news of demolition of idols and vandalisation of Temples, humiliation upon Hindus for land and women has been pouring in media just like an endemic disease of communal frenzy since 1972. Whilst the 15th Amendment in the constitution of Bangladesh does reinstate secularism, it neither revokes the status of Islam as the state religion, nor erases it from the Preamble that guides the Constitution and its spirit. The paradox of the communal frenzies under the cover of justice and good governance is a funny proposition in Bangladesh. Attacks upon Hindu families between September 2012 and January 2014 as it happened in 1990, 1992, 2001 and 2005 have been heavily criticized by The United States Government, European Union as well as India and other peace demanding nations and organizations.

About Durga Puja Dates In 2014

Durga Puja is celebrated twice a year in many states of India, Bangladesh and other parts of the world. According to Hindu religious scriptures, the conventional worship of Durga falls in the Bengali month of 'Chaitra' (March or April) and is called Basanti Durga Puja. However the autumnal ritual, also known as 'Akaal Bodhan', is more popular and widely celebrated as per Hindu almanac (Panjika) around different continents of the world in the Bengali month of 'Ashwin' (September- October). According to Hindu Almanac (Panji) ,dates of Durga puja fall in 2014 as follow : Mahalaya on 23 September 2014; Shasthi on 29 September 2014; Saptami on 30 September 2014; Mahaa Ashtami on 01 October 2014;Mahaa Navami on 02 October 2014; Dashami or Vijaya on 03 October 2014

The main Puja mandap in the Bangladesh capital have been erected. Large mandaps have been built at Dhakeshwari National Temple, Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University, the Ramkrishna Mission, Ramna Kali Mondir, Siddheshwari Kali Mondir, Gulshan -Banani- Puja Parisad, Tanti Bazar, Shankhari Bazar, Bangla Bazar, Sutrapur, North Brook Hall Puja Committee, Mohakhali Puja and Farmgate Puja areas.

Ansars have been deployed at every puja pandel while RAB will patrol the puja venues for ensuring security of the visitors. A lot of security measures had been taken by the home ministry to provide security to the more than 28,000 'puja mandaps' across the country so the festivity will be somewhat subdued in 2014.
To commemorate the festival, messages from the figureheads of the country and other political personalities come forth to give finesse. Well-placed Hindus, like Babus of bygone days, of different walks of life in the metropolis, dressed in their best, attend state function, the 'Vijoya Dashami' reception at Bangabhaban, the president’s palace and ‘Ganobhaban’ the residence of Prime Minister to exchange ‘Vijoy Shuvechcha’ puja greetings among themselves.

Concept of Mother Goddess Shri shri Durga

It is believed that Goddess Durga, the slayer of MAHISASURA, was first worshipped in autumn by Lord Ram before going for war with Ravana. Lord Ram had invoked the blessings of Goddess Durga by performing 'Chandi Homa', offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps. It was then on Ashvin Shukla Dashami that Lord Rama who was blessed by the Goddess had attained triumph by killing Ravana. Moreover it is believed that Durga Puja is observed as the welcoming celebration of Goddess Durga who visits her mother's land for ten days on the completion of which she goes back to her husband Lord Shiva. (http://123durgapuja.com/#sthash.1cCupQl6.dpuf)

Rig Veda, the oldest religious script of the world and it is more than 10,000 years old as defined by UNESCO bears the testimony of Shri Sakti Cult. In the Rig Veda Ch-10 .109, it is revealed that Lord created by His wisdom the First Devi Cult to cool off the evil forces, says: “To establish peace by protecting from the destructive fire of vain arrogant tyrants wielding the evil power like that of a mad Bull, Lord created by His wisdom the First Devee, to cool off the force evil fire as if by throwing water to quench the evil fire. Thus Veda clearly establishes the creation of Durga to kill the arrogant Evil to establish peace and joy on earth” (RV 10.109)

The Markandiya Purana commonly known as Shri Shri Chandi is recited from Mahalaya day and the following episode of the revelation of Mother Goddess Shri shri Durga. In the Markandiya Purana says:

‘Manydark, Primordial moons ago when evil went stampeding through the heavens in the form of Mohisashura, the buffalo demon, the gods in their hour of need turned to Shiva and Vishnu. The pitch dark of wrongdoing and heedless ignorance were threatening to swallow up the steady glow of light in thinking and knowledge. The golden moments of heavenly existence were beginning to show the tarnish of demonic misconduct. The might of the gods, the Devas was in danger of being snuffed out by the misrule of the Ashuras, the demons. The light was going out their lives.

“It was an impassioned plea, Shiva and Vishnu listened with rising concern and mounting disapproval. It was not an unfamiliar situation. Evil existed alongside good, knowledge beside ignorance in an eternal tantalisiing tangle. And the universal scales were rarely still in the perfect balance of opposites. Mahishshura’s way was to strike at the very roots of existence. The cosmic structure was very near collapse. The radiance the powers, the energies, the Sakti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva met in a flash of creation. The darkness that had settled on the world burst open in a dazzle—and of the effulgence was born the sound and fury of blazing wrath that is Devi Durga, difficult to attain destroyer of all evil. Fiery red in hue, clad in the blue of the firmament her many arms fanned out to fill the sky as she received the martial equipment that each god separately created out of his own special weapons—a trident from Shiva, a discous from Vishnu, staff of death from Yama, a club from Kubera, a battle axe from Vishwakarma, a thunder bolt from Indra and many more.

The gods watched in wonder and relief as she went riding to battle on a rampant lion, her dreadful laughter mingling with its roar the three worlds echoing with the sound of fury as the made her way to the Vindalyas to seek out Mahisashura.

In a final burst of triumph, she pinned Mahishashur down with her foot drove the trident into his heaving chest as he strove to hold back his escaping life-breath. Thus the demon met his doom, gazing into her frenzied eye; for the glance reread his doom—and his deliverance.’

Hinduism believes in one Ultimate Spiritual Reality or universal spirit Who is self luminous and manifests Himself in many worlds and dwells in all living beings as their under-ruler. Thus the conception of which Devi Durga is made is the stuff of eternal challenge and fight and panting victory over the ugliness and terror that forms the morass of the world out of which like the lotus of slush the beauty of the good arises.

‘O Hindu of Bangladesh, pray day and night,
”O thou Lord of Gouri,
O Thou Mother of the Universe,
Vouchsafe manliness unto me!
O Thou Mother of Strength,
Take away my weakness,
Take away my unmanliness,
And - make me a man!”

With the spirit of complete surrender to achieve eternal liberty and Blessings of Ma Shri Shri Durga be bestowed on all of us. With best Vijoya wishes and greetings to all.

Rabindranath Trivedi is a retired civil servant, author and columnist.

- Asian Tribune -

Finishing touch in the image of Goddess Durga- by artist: photo courtesy the daily Ittefaq, Bangladesh
   History & Devi Durga Puja in Bangladesh
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