Durga puja, the biggest religious festival of Snatan community in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India is offing. In this time people of Bangladesh, especially from sanatan community take all their initiatives to make puja festival successful. Children, youngsters and people from all the age-groups keep themselves in a festive mood. In the villages and as well as in urban areas solvent people of sanatan community make their own puja mondop in the premises of their residence. Out of this the main attraction is sharbojanin baroari durga puja. Those are generally sponsored by local inhabitants of that particular area. People say those are the sharbojonin durga pujas.
Much before Mohalaya, Bodhon and Moha Shashti devotees of sanatan community start construction of puja mondop. They contact to the artisans of different areas to make the idols of Durga, Ganesh, Ashur, Goj etc. Usually these artisans are very much efficient to decorate the puja mondop. And a kind of competition also starts to decorate more efficiently from others. This is very much common scenario in our rural and as well as in urban areas. To construct a puja mondop a huge initiative is also needed. People living adjacent to that area are also very much eager to see different stages of idols making and works of artisans from morning to afternoon and in the evening in and around puja mondop sites. Other than sanatan community people the youngsters of other religions are also very much inquisitive to the works of artisans. For this reason, Durga puja's attraction is almost universal in Bangladesh. People from all other communities are used to take share of happiness of this festival with their sanatan community neighbors and friends. This is one of the traits of true secular attitude of common people in Bangladesh.
Except some untoward incidents people of our country following different religions live as neighbors centuries after centuries. History says once in this part of this subcontinent Buddhism flourished much. But the communal riots were very much uncommon to the people of this land. Even many kings ruling this land were the followers of Buddhism. Archeological discoveries in many parts of ancient Bengal have also established such statements and documentations. And it was also true that in general communal harmony was common in the then time.
The major portion of Bengali community turned to the Sanatan religion from Buddhism again in course of time. We did not find any significant disharmony in that transition time. Now the followers of Buddhism are a small fraction of Bangladesh population. And with some exceptions they live in this country with peace and tranquility. Before incitement of Islam, majority people of this land were followers of Sanatan Hindu religion. But history did not or could not find any major disharmony of society in then transitional time towards Islam. That was also the indication of social peace appeasement in the then time. It is also the indication of non-communal attitude of people in this part of the subcontinent. During British rein communalism between some Muslims and some Hindus evolved. We can say that time was the tragic era of communal disharmony in British India. Actually there have definite reasons to believe that British people in some way had patronized evolving communality for their convenience of administering India in the then time. Everyone must agree that the main religious festival of Bengali Hindus is Durga Puja. Durga Puja has such an attraction that people of other communities are used to join the different functions and rituals of Durga Puja. In urban areas of Bangladesh people start gathering near Puja Mondop from the day of Moha Shashti and it continues till the moment of Bishorjon. People come to the Mondop mainly in the evening and see the rituals of Purohit. And they also take prasad in front of idol Ma Durga. Children, youngsters keep themselves in festive mood and they wander from hither and thither. Puja committee and members of security forces keep themselves alert and vigilant to check any untoward incident. Music, drum beating keep ongoing in that time. The devotees of Sanatan community come to the Puja Mondops for praying so that with the help of Ma Durga they can keep themselves in prosperous position in future and they also pray to Durga for keeping themselves from evil force.
In the rural and urban areas the scenario is same. In this time the youngsters of Sanatan community invite their friends irrespective of religions to their place and entertain them with luchi, ghonto, naru and sweets. It is a unique situation of communal harmony in Bangladesh. In Puja Time President and Prime minster of Bangladesh arrange receptions for the followers of Sanatan community at Bangabhabn and Gonobhaban. With these events the members of Sanatan community feel boosted as the proud citizen of Bangladesh.
In time of Durga puja the local administration and members of law enforcing agencies, fire service keep them alert so that no untoward incident can happen. The day of Bijoya Dashami is a public holiday in Bangladesh. Generally, service holders from Sanatan community take extra and optional leaves from their authority for this festival. In this way they get more time to enjoy this festival. Relatives, daughters married elsewhere are used to come to their parents' residence in this time. And with all these connections the Durga Puja festival gets momentum and relatives, dears and nears feel happy to join functions organized in Durga Puja time.
During Durga Puja festival children and youngsters buy new dresses and elderly people also get new cloths from their sons, daughters and well-wishers. Exchange of gifts happened in reciprocal way. Children wait throughout the year for new gifts and dresses. Parents are also used to buy new cloths for their children and dependents. For that reason, this time the business of clothes, shoes, ornaments, perfumes get boosted and a huge gathering and rush is a common reality in the bazars and shops. In the day of Dashami, the Durga Puja festival ended with immersion of idol of Ma Durga in the ponds and rivers. That time sadness occupies the mind of devotees.
After Eids Durga Puja is the second biggest religious festival in Bangladesh and the biggest religious festival of Sanatan community in Bangladesh. It is also a myth and hearsay that Durga Puja of present form primarily evolved in the Tahirpur area of Rajshahi and later it spread and became customized in the whole of Bengal among the Sanatan community. So the strength and spirit of Durga make the people of Sanatan community confident and boosted by offering worship and oblation to the Ma Durga every year. This is the unique situation of peace of mind of Sanatan community in Bangladesh. In this way communal harmony will be more strengthened among the different religious communities in Bangladesh in the days to come.
Dr. Syed Nesar Ahmad Rumy, Former Civil Servant, Dhaka
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