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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

The 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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Bengal does have a very special place in the Shakto religion. When parts of goddess Sati’s dead body fell on earth, each of those sites became a Shakti-peeth — a space of divine significance. Of the 51 Shakti-peeths on earth, West Bengal is blessed with 16 while East Bengal has the second highest number at 5. Thus, many Bengali Hindus would claim in an off-hand manner that Durga Pujo, who is Shakti incarnate, as Bengal’s biggest festival. The most widely celebrated festival in West Bengal however, is Durga Pujo. The festival most widely celebrated in Bengal compared to anywhere else in the world is also Durga Pujo. Durga Pujo is by no means the biggest festival as far as the whole of the Indian Union is concerned. It is hardly a “national” festival in a Union-wide sense.

Earlier the puja was organized 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.

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).

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. 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 mandaps have been decorated with colorful lights, artificial flowers, festoons, banners and paintings, with colourful arches at the entrance of a number of them welcoming devotees and guests.

Meanwhile, security measures have been beefed up at temples and mandaps with the deployment of additional squads of Ansar, police, Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies for peaceful celebration of the festival. A lot of security measures had been taken by the home ministry to provide security to the more than 30,077 'puja mandaps' across the country so the festivity will be somewhat subdued in 2017.

In a humanitarian gesture, Hindus in Bangladesh on Friday, 21 Sept 2017 decided to cut the expenses of the upcoming Durga Puja to set up a fund to provide relief for the Rohingya refugees who poured into the country following the ethnic violence in Myanmar.More than 420,000 Rohingyas, mostly Muslims, fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to evade atrocities which the United States. Reports suggest that the violence also forced some 800 Hindus in Rakhine State to take refuge in Bangladesh.(OutLook.23 Sept 17)

In separate messages, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conveyed greetings to members of the Hindu community, reports BSS. 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.

The paradox of the communal frenzies under the cover of justice and good governance is a funny proposition in Bangladesh.

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.

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

Vijoya best wishes and greetings to all.

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

- Asian Tribune -

 The   Durga Puja in Bangladesh
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