Durga Puja: The festival that unites Bangladesh

The five-day festival begins on October 1

Suffused with the spirit of love and camaraderie, Durga Puja is a festival of unity in Bangladesh.

Be it the minority Hindus or the majority Muslims, all grab this opportunity to throng pandals, dance to the sounds of the dhak (a special percussion instrument) and indulge in delectable bhog during the festival.

In Faridpur, Netrakona and Khulna, for instance, hectic preparations are on for the festival, slated to begin on October 1, with the homecoming of Goddess Durga post-slaying of the buffalo demon Mahishasura.

The largest festival of the Hindu community will culminate with the immersion of idols on October 5.

With Durga Puja round the corner, the artisans -- known as the Pals -- are having a busy time giving final touches to the idols of the Goddess.

The idols of deities are, in fact, sculpted from mud and straw by the artisans, before being taken to the pandals for worship.

But these artisans say that rising inflation and fuel prices have taken a toll on their earnings by shrinking margins to a large extent.

Sukumar Paul, an idol maker in Faridpur district, said that the cost of raw materials for idols has increased manifold in the past two years. "I am charging Tk40,000 for an idol but that is not enough to make our both ends meet."

Bishwajit Paul, an idol maker in Beleshwar of Faridpur, is charging Tk50,000 for each idol he is sculpting. "But margins have shrunk because of rising prices of raw materials," he said.

On his part, Faridpur's deputy commissioner Atul Sarkar, said that all measures have been taken to ensure the grand festival is celebrated peacefully in 829 puja mandaps across nine upazilas of the district.

In Netrakona district too, Durga Puja is in the air.

Gyanesh Chandra Sarkar, president of the Netrakona District Puja Celebration Parishad, said that 526 pandals have been set up for the celebrations in the district.

Here too, sculptors complain of shrinking profits due to the rise in prices of raw materials used for making idols. "Two years of the pandemic ruined us financially. This year too, we are not expecting much profits," said Nikhil Pal, a local artisan.

Netrakona mayor Alhaj Nazrul Islam Khan said the municipal corporation is ready to give full support to puja organizers.

Md Faiz Ahmed, superintendent of Netrakona Police, said the parishad leaders have been asked to install CCTV cameras at every mandap to ensure security and avoid chaos.

"In order to maintain law and order during the festival, cops in uniform and plain clothes will be deployed near all pandals," he said.

In Khulna, District Puja Celebration Parishad president Professor Krishna Pad Das said a total of 1,025 mandaps have been set up this year.

"We have urged the police to increase patrolling in areas near the pandals to avoid an untoward incident," he adds.

President of Nagar Puja Celebration Parishad, Shyamal Halder says that closed-circuit TV cameras will be installed at every mandap. "Police have assured us that they will increase patrolling in areas near the pandals."

The five-day festival begins on October 1.