Durga Puja, the largest festival which celebrates the power of women among Bangla-speaking Hindus, both in Bangladesh and West Bengal, will be starting from Sunday, October 7.
Preparations are almost complete for the grand celebration. This year, it will be observed at
229 Puja mandaps in Dhaka, and 29,395 Puja mandaps across the country. The city dwellers are excited and ready to participate in the celebrations.
Be it mandap-hopping, eating prasad or just enjoying the beautiful sounds of dhak and dhol, the love for this festival makes people wait patiently and gracefully in their heavy, traditional saris and freshly-ironed panjabis for hours, just to catch a glimpse of the Durga idol.
However, with so many mandaps set up all over the city, it is impossible to visit each and every one of them in this short span of time. It would be wiser just to visit a few, so here's a list of the biggest and most visited Puja mandaps that you wouldn't want to miss if you're in the city.
Dhakeshwari is the national temple of Bangladesh and was built in the 12th century. This ancient temple also hosts the largest celebration of Durga Puja in the country, and is known for being visited by all the dignitaries and notable personalities, including the Bangladeshi President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Members of Parliament, who all come together to rejoice with the Bangladeshi Hindu community at the temple premises. It is one of the best temples in Dhaka to visit, as several thousand worshippers and onlookers of any religion linger around the temple. While you might be a bit worried about the crush, if you are eager to bump into any celebrities from the music and film industry, then Dhakeshwari is the place to be.
Shankhari Bazaar is one of the oldest areas in Old Dhaka belonging to the Shankhari community, and has the largest concentration of Hindus in the city. Durga Puja in Sankhari Bazaar is also known as Old Dhaka Durga Puja, and it is the ideal place to visit during this festival. The roads are decorated with colourful statues and banners, small and temporary food stalls pop up around the temples, and huge idols of Durga are situated inside all the mandaps around that area. One can have a great time spending an entire day roaming around Shankhari Bazaar, and the street food in itself, coupled with the colours and celebrations on the streets, is a great reason for wandering around its beautiful corners. Give it a shot, you won't be disappointed!
Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission
This is a branch centre of worldwide spiritual and philanthropic twin organisations Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897. Ramakrishna Math or Belur Math observe Durga Puja every year, and distributes relief among the less fortunate people in society on the premises of the Ramkanai Temple. The festivities are grand – with Pujas going on for five days, a fun fair, and exciting crowds. So if you're in the mood to enjoy the fair and also give a helping hand during the day's good deeds of distributing relief, you should drop by Belur Math at least once in the five-day long festival.
Ramna Kali Mandir
Every year, a delegation of Bangladeshi Hindus have to formally request permission from the government, and if this is granted, a temporary mandap is constructed at the site of what was once the original Ramna Kali temple, enabling Hindus to worship there once again. This structure is called Ramna Kalibari. However as soon as the festival ends, the mandap has to be dismantled as per the regulations of the city authorities. There are several temples in the boundary of Ramna Kali Mandir, among which Durga Puja is celebrated in the Ma Durga Mandir.
A few other places, where the celebration of Durga Puja takes place are:
Kalabagan Puja Mandap
Banani Puja Mandap