Durga Puja to Preserve Harmony in Bangladesh
[English Text only]
Sharodiyo Durga Puja, the largest festivities of Hindus in Bangladesh, begins on 13 October 2010. About 27000 Puja mandaps, including 191 in Dhaka, have been set up across the country this year. “The Government keeps its ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ open to avoid any untoward incidences,” reports Prothom-alo.
Durga Puja is a festivity of Ma Durga winning over the evil, Maheshasoora. It is a worship of power of good which always wins over the evil. The conception of which Devi Durga is made is the 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.
Although it is a Hindu festival, Durga Puja is a carnival, where people from all backgrounds, regardless of their religious beliefs, participate and enjoy themselves to the hilt in Bnagladesh. In fact, visiting the puja pandals, one can only say that Durga puja is the largest outdoor art festival on earth.
Durga Puja has been deeply ingrained in Bengali culture. The joyous events, ‘Durga Puja’ and ‘Eid’, celebration coincides simultaneously in Bangladesh. There are about 20,000 temples in Bangladesh which is situated in a region most susceptible to religious intolerance and violence. Though the religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution of Bangladesh, the Puja committees in the capital and other parts of the country depend on doles and protection of law enforcing agencies.
The Asian Tribune (Vol.10 No 167) has reported that the Hindu leadership under the umbrella of Durga Puja is a farce and a great mockery in Bangladesh. Durga Puja has lost its religious fervour and festivity there. It becomes a political bargaining factor for a class of beneficiaries. Hindu Leaders 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.
William Dalrymple wrote in the National Interest (May 1, 2010) that education and political conciousness are making people more aware of their religious and political identies. Now-a-days, few Hindus go to mosques, and few Muslims visit temples. Identities are hardening. This was rarely the case before. The people of two faiths, Hindus and Muslims, fought together against Pakistan’s tyranny and oppression, and created an independent country, Bangladesh, in 1971.
While the government has been implementing various socio-economic and humanitarian activities including training of Bangladesh’s religious leaders, it largely depends upon educated Bangladeshis to rise, with the spirit of a great independence war in 1971, above any partisan interests to preserve harmony in Bangladesh where all citizens are free to practice, propagate and observe religious rites and ceremonies without depending on law enforcing agencies.