Durga Puja, the grandest religious festival celebrated by the Bengali Hindu community, is set to kick off with immense fervor and enthusiasm in Bangladesh. A staggering 32,408 Mandaps, an increase of 240 from the previous year, will host this iconic event, starting with Mahashasthi Puja. The increase in Mandaps, including 246 in the capital Dhaka, reflects the continued growth and significance of this cultural and religious celebration.
The five-day Sharadiyo Durgotsab, which is the autumn festival dedicated to Goddess Durga, will commence with the Kalparambho ceremony. This ritual marks the installation of a water-filled pot, invoking Goddess Durga under the Bel tree, symbolizing the awakening of the deity from her rest. As part of the ceremonies, married women apply sindoor on their foreheads, don new sarees, and welcome the goddess with holy Ganges water, betel leaves, and betel nuts.
Despite the festive atmosphere, there is an undercurrent of concern among the Hindu community leaders. This year's Durga Puja coincides with the upcoming national elections scheduled for January. Fearing potential communal attacks during the festivities, the Hindu community has expressed their worries. However, the government of Sheikh Hasina has taken proactive measures to ensure the security and peaceful celebration of Durga Puja. A four-tier security plan, including para-military, police, and elite forces such as RAB, has been established to maintain a safe environment during the festivities. Furthermore, multiple organizations will conduct intelligence surveillance to preempt any potential threats.
The autumn Durga Puja holds special significance, transcending religious boundaries, and promotes a message of peace and unity. It represents the victory of Surashakti over the Asura's power and is a cultural and traditional event deeply rooted in Bengali heritage. The theme of "Religion belongs to everyone, festival belongs to everyone" reflects the inclusive nature of this celebration.
Intriguingly, this year, Goddess Durga is depicted riding a horse, which symbolizes war and dispute, and is considered inauspicious. Nevertheless, the festival will be marked by the recitation of verses from the Holy Sri Sri Chandi, the blowing of conch shells, and the rhythmic beats of traditional dhak-dhols.
President Mohammed Shahabuddin and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are set to issue separate messages to extend their greetings to the Hindu community on the auspicious occasion of Durga Puja.
Durga Puja embodies the rich tapestry of Bangladeshi culture and tradition and serves as a powerful reminder of the nation's commitment to unity, harmony, and the spirit of celebration, transcending the boundaries of religion. As the grand festival unfolds, millions of devotees are expected to come together to celebrate this significant occasion, heralding the victory of good over evil, and the coming together of people from all walks of life.