Saturday, 12 October 2013

For puja at this Dhaka temple, door’s open to all

Jaideep Mazumdar, TNN | Oct 13, 2013, 05.49 AM IST
 
DHAKA: She gave Dhaka her name. And though she has been attacked several times she remains an inspiring example of communal integration in Bangladesh. The best time to witness this is during Durga puja. The 800-year-old Dhakeshwari temple is like no other Hindu temple in the world. The national flag of Bangladesh is hoisted here every morning and even flies at half mast during official mourning.

Durga puja at Dhakeshwari too is unique in many ways. It is a must-visit for not only the country's estimated 140 lakh Hindus, but also for the vast majority of Muslims here. Senior politicians of both the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party make it a point to drop by and greet puja revellers here.

The long queues waiting to be served the rich bhuna khichuri served on Ashtami include Muslims too. Bijoya Sammilani (the post-puja social and cultural gathering) held in the temple grounds is a major event in Dhaka's cultural calendar. "Durga Puja, for us, is an occasion to do some social service and strengthen bonds between members of other communities," says Bashudeb Dhar, the president of the Mahanagar Sarbojonin Puja Committee that oversees the 212 community pujas.

Prominent members of all communities, including Buddhists and Christians, are invited to participate in the festivities. But the committee also reaches out to the general public by offering free meals and organizing community initiatives. The secular nature of Durga puja in Dhaka is a strong and time-tested, says Dhar. "There have been attempts to destroy this secular culture. Our participation in Durgotsav is important to defeat these attempts," says Mohammad 'Montu' Naseem, a prominent businessman. Prominent Muslims serve on the organizing committees of most pujas here. "Pujas are an integral part of our cultural and religious heritage and we must fight all attempts to destroy it," says Awami League leader Abdul Qadir Nissar.

The original Durga idol at the temple, the ten-armed Dasabhuja, was smuggled out to Kolkata in 1947. The replacements were destroyed thrice, the first time by the Pakistani army in March 1971, and then by Islamic hardliners in 1975 and 1990. But none of that managed to shake Dhaka's love for the temple.
 

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