October 12, 2013
Durga Puja brings together all communities
Creativity is the hallmark of Bengal. This is clearly evident from the fascinating structures and décor of various Puja mandaps, commented Trinamool Chairperson Mamata Banerjee on her Facebook page. A Puja pandal in Hatibagan has actually gone a stride ahead to bring in the concept of `Truck Art’ to their Puja theme. Mumtaz Ahamed, a Muslim artist from Pakistan's Karachi city was flown in to the city for guiding the artists. Durga Puja in West Bengal has crossed boundaries separating communities and nations to put itself up as a point of convergence for all religions; this phenomenon is not new and has been happening for years.
West Bengal has always put festivities above religious beliefs. Whether it is Durga Puja or Eid, or for that matter Diwali, Bengal has always seen a prominent participation from all communities. Hindus Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians celebrate any festival in Bengal unitedly.
Many members of the West Bengal Cabinet, belonging to the minority communities, also happen to be Chief Patrons of Durga Puja committees across Kolkata; this proves that the biggest festival of the state is beyond religious barriers. This year for instance, Jb. Javed Ahmed Khan is the Chief Patron of the decades-old Babubagan Sarbojonin Puja Committee in Dhakuria whereas Jb. Firhad Hakim is one of the main figureheads of the Chetla Agrani Sangha Puja Committee; both pujas figure among the most prestigious ones in the city. The famous Durga Puja of the Park Circus Maidan has a large representation of Muslims in the organizing committee.
Munsiganj in Kidderpore area witnesses a 71-year-old puja, organized mostly by the Muslim community. Sounds strange, but the scene at Munshiganj Five Star is no different from any Hindu locality. This is where humanity prevails over all barriers. Not long back, Muslim religious leaders appealed to all to ensure a peaceful Durga Puja. This was the initiative from the Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata. He had also called for the participation of the Muslim youth in the festivities during Durga Puja.
Workers belonging to the minority community who hail from Giridih are constructing one of the pandals in Saltlake Sector-II. “Like Allah, we have immense faith in Goddess Durga, as she provides us livelihood and takes care of us,“ says one of the artisans.
It is not just about Hindu-Muslim amity. “To me what struck most was invariably the 'sandhi-puja' in the evening and the boisterous 'dhunuchi-naach' performances accompanied with it. Never a dancer myself, I'm always marvelled by the skill portrayed by the 'dhunuchi-dancers'; both the young and the not-so-young, “ recalls Trinamool Chief Whip and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O` Brien.
West Bengal has a long tradition of communal harmony and it is best on display during festivities like Durga Puja.