Festival of Durga Puja Fills My Heart With Sorrow

Festival of Durga Puja Fills My Heart With Sorrow

Durga Puja is the most important festival for Bengali and the most important Hindu religious festival in Bangladesh and West Bengal (India). In my early days in Bangladesh, I celebrated Durga Puja with my friends from Muslim, Buddhist and Christian community. When it was time for offering the Puspanjali (throwing flowers at the feet of Protima, idol of Durga, while the priest chanted mantra), we all friends did it together. I remember, in my college in Bangladesh the students from Hindu and Muslim faith organised the Swaraswati Puja together- religious identity was never questioned.

Durga Puja to me was more about the panadals (decorated structures that house the Durga idols), hopping from one pandal to another and standing at the long queues for vegetarian food. To me, five-day-festival of Durga Puja was more about celebration of life than about establishing a religious identity.

To me, celebration of Puja festival is all about secularism.  However, Durga Puja festival in Bangladesh and West Bengal (India) has suddenly taken on a new meaning. In 2015, Hindu Samhati, a Hindu outfit in West Bengal, had requested the Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee to ban slaughtering of cows during Durga Puja, a request to which the Chief Minister did not stand.  

Now-a-days, in Bangladesh, attacks on Hindus and breaking idols in the temples are very common. In their article titled ‘ Hindu temples and homes in Bangladesh are attacked by Muslim crowds’, published in The New York Times on 2 November 2016, Julfikar Ali Manik and Ellen Barry stated, ‘… crowds of Muslims attacked Hindu homes and temples in eastern Bangladesh, raising concerns that the authorities are not taking steps to curb rising religious tensions. The mob used long, hard sticks and locally made sharp weapons to assault Hindus they found there, and that at least 20 people, including a priest, were wounded…’.

Demolition of statue of Hindu deities; Mayor accused for grabbing land of minority Hindus; Hindus’ houses burned down and Hindu girl kidnapped are some of news headlines that makes me worried about my family and friends in Bangladesh. Like many immigrants, I have settled in Australia by leaving my relatives and friends there in Bangladesh. With them living in such a hostile environment, particularly in the Durga Puja festive season, I can not fully celebrate the Durga Puja festivity in Australia with joy and happiness. While, I may physically celebrate the puja festival in Australia, my soul feels for family and friends in Bangladesh. My soul remains with them, who are celebrating Durga Puja festival to display communal harmony in the name of Puja. I can do little to free them from this hostile situation, which fills my heart with sorrow..

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