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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bangladesh celebrates Durga Puja:


Bangladesh is perhaps one of the few Islamic countries where a Hindu festival like Durga Puja is celebrated with gusto. All are welcome to the puja pandal irrespective of the religious association.

BANGLADESH IS one of the few countries that call themselves Islamic Republic and yet celebrate a Hindu festival like the Durga Puja. It has historical reasons. In the pre-independence undivided India, a large number of Hindus lived in the cities and villages that later became East Pakistan and on independence from Pakistan was renamed as Bangladesh. Indeed the tempo of trouble free celebration of a Hindu religious cum social function depends on the attitude of the government of the day. Right now, the Awami League is in power and instructions issued by it from the capital Dhaka is that the Hindus should have full freedom of practising their faith.

The number of puja pandal in Dhaka, Sylhet, Khulna, Chittagong and other towns and cities has never been so large after the country declared itself an Islamic republic. Now, this year the Hindu population has more religious freedom. There is enthusiasm and fun and frolic in the air and on the ground in Bangladesh with Sheikh Hasina as the powerful and effective Prime Minister.

It may be recalled that Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur rehman who became the Prime Minister after the then East Pakistan was liberated with the help of the Indian Army. Notwithstanding ups and downs in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, the Bangladeshis can never forget that they are enjoying the fruits of freedom after being liberated from the iron clutches of Pakistan, thanks to India and the Indian support.

By the way, Durga Puja commences its ten day celebrations with worship of the goddess on the mahalaya and it reaches climax with Maha Ashtmi and Maha Navami. Children and adults look forward to the Pooja with great expectations. After the religious part is over, the socio-cultural aspect comes into prominence and staging of plays or screening of movies hold sway. The audience swells beyond the capacity of the pandal. Men, women and children of all faiths living in Bangladesh flock to the Hindu celebrations without a hitch.

The only other country that stages plays from the Hindu epic, Ramayan, where mostly Muslims play the roles is Indonesia. Among numerous islands of the country, Bali is the only Hindu island but Ramayan is staged all over Indonesia, specially the capital Jakarta.

As neighbours of Bangladesh and as one who was with them in shaping history, the Indians naturally feel close to them. We wish one and all Happy Durga Puja.

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