Prime minister, president call for religious harmony
Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Bengali Hindu community, will begin on Thursday with Maha Sashthi puja at temples across the country amid festivity and religious fervor following the prescribed health guidelines in face of the global coronavirus pandemic .
On the occasion, preparations at all the puja mandaps have nearly been completed as artisans are busy giving final touches on idols and pandals across the country marking the festival.
The five-day-long Durga Puja celebration will begin with the unveiling of the face of the deity and Kalparambho on the day of Maha Sashthi on Thursday and conclude on October 26 with the immersion of the idols.
The incarnation (Bodhon) of the Goddess Durga was held on Wednesday at temples ahead of the puja on Maha Panchami.
Maha Saptami puja will be performed on Friday, Maha Ashtami, Kumari Puja, and Sandhi Puja on Saturday, and Maha Nabami Puja on Sunday.
The Mahalaya, the auspicious occasion heralding the advent of Goddess Durga, was celebrated on September 17 last.
Prime minister, president call for religious harmony
Meanwhile, President M Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the same day felicitated the Hindu community in separate messages on the occasion of Durga Puja.
In his message, President Hamid said: “The main religious festival of the Bengali Hindu community is the Durga Puja. The country’s Hindu community has been celebrating the puja amid huge enthusiasm and festivity with different rituals since ancient times.”
Durga Puja is not only a religious festival but also a social one, he added.
Marking the Durgotshob (Durga festival), relatives, friends, family members, neighbours irrespective of caste, creed and religion get together to celebrate the festival, the president said, adding “So, it is a universal festival, which proves that religion for individuals, festival for all.”
President Hamid said Durga Puja is attached to the traditional heritage and culture of Bangla.
Apart from a religious festival, Durga Puja plays an important role in creating unity and mutual harmony among the countrymen, he said.
Noting that the global pandemic coronavirus has pushed the whole world into uncertainty and taking tolls on lives, economy, education, health, trade and businesses, employment, and lifestyle, the president urged all to celebrate the Durga festival maintaining health guidelines properly.
The president said communal harmony is the universal heritage of the Bengali nation. “We are to collectively take forward the heritage with our overall advancement collectively,” he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her message, said that Durga Puja is not only a festival of the Hindu community, rather today it has turned into a universal festival. Destruction of evil spirits and the worship of truth and beauty are the main features of the Durgotshob (Durga festival), she added.
Noting that Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony since ancient times, the premier said, “We celebrate all religious festivals together being imbued with the motto ‘Religion for individuals, festival for all’ in Bangladesh.”
Health guidelines to be strictly followed
Leaders of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad urged all to strictly maintain the health guidelines and directives issued by the government in the wake of the global pandemic Covid-19 during the Durga Puja celebration.
In Dhaka city, the main puja mandaps are at Dhakeshwari National Temple, Ramkrishna Mission and Math, Kalabagan, Banani, Shakhari Bazar, and Ramna Kali Mandir.
Durga Puja signifies the birth of Durga with the blessings of gods, as collective energy, to fight the demon king Mahishasura.
Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up at temples and Durga Puja pandals.
These idols are then worshiped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day. The puja is performed in temples, homes, and in the public, featuring temporary stage decorations.
The celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, prosperity), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (god of good beginnings), and Kartikeya (god of war).
This year, Durga Puja will be arranged at 7,014 mandaps in Dhaka division while at 3,906 mandaps in Chittagong, 4,689 in Khulna, 2,646 in Sylhet, 1,584 in Mymensingh, 1,701 in Barisal, 5,250 in Rangpur, and 3,435 in Rajshahi division.
Recently Health Services Division issued directives for maintaining health guidelines during the Durga Puja in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the instructions, while entering the puja mandap, one has to maintain health guidelines, including social distancing, using hand sanitizer, and wearing a mask.
Handwashing facilities, sanitizers, and thermal scanner should be ensured at the entry points of puja mandaps.
No procession will be allowed at the time of immersion of the goddess Durga. Prashad distribution, arati (dance competition), and cultural festivals should be avoided.
Earlier on October 4, the Home Ministry gave some instructions to ensure the security of the puja mandaps and maintain law and order.
The Puja Udjapan Committees are asked to dial 999 for emergency help or support if needed.
Besides, the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad sends out directives to puja celebration committees across the country.
In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no programs to celebrate the Kumari Puja in Dhaka as part of this year’s Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindus.
Additionally, the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad (BPUP) announced that mandaps (pavilions) across the country will be closed every day during the puja at 9pm.
However, no decision has been taken yet on the rituals of the Bijoya Dashami, which involves mass gatherings and rallies, BPUP President Milon Kanti Dutta said during a media call at the Dhakeshwari temple.
He said Kumari Puja is usually held on the eighth day of Durga Puja at Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka. But there will be no Kumari Puja this year considering the coronavirus situation in Dhaka. However, it may take place in one or two areas outside Dhaka.
Security has been beefed up in all Puja pandals throughout the country, including the capital, with the deployment of additional squads of Ansars, police, RAB, and other law enforcers for peaceful celebration of the festival. Besides, voluntary groups will also perform duties at the puja pandals.