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Monday, October 25, 2021

In Kolkata’s Alimuddin Street, residents bring back Durga Puja after 15 years

Upholding the spirit of communal harmony, the Puja is being organised by both Hindus and Muslims, with the latter being numerically more and but equal in enthusiasm and fervour.

Written by Sweety Kumari | Kolkata |
Updated: October 10, 2021 9:03:29 pm
Durga Puja, Dugra Puja pandal, Durga puja celebration, Kolkata, Kolkata news, Indian express, Indian express news The Puja also marks the return of Bengal’s biggest festival to Alimuddin Street after a 15-year hiatus. In what is predominantly a Muslim area, with Hindu families numbering nine of ten or roughly 2 percent of the population. (Representational/Express Photo)

“Every second person you run into in a crowded Puja pandal in Kolkata could be a Sukanta (a Hindu) or a Mohammad (a Muslim). That is the beauty of this city,” said Tauseef Rahman while overseeing last-minute decking up of a pandal on a pavement on AJC Bose Road, close to the CPM’s state headquarters at Alimuddin Street and opposite Pratt Memorial School.

In a city bedecked with pandals this festive season, each competing with the other for concept, ideation and grandeur, this Durga Puja in the heart of Kolkata stands alone in the larger message that it seeks to convey. Upholding the spirit of communal harmony, the Puja is being organised by both Hindus and Muslims, with the latter being numerically more and but equal in enthusiasm and fervour.

Eight to nine Puja committee members, belonging to the minority community, have also decided to go off non-vegetarian food during the last four days of the Puja.

The Puja also marks the return of Bengal’s biggest festival to Alimuddin Street after a 15-year hiatus. In what is predominantly a Muslim area, with Hindu families numbering nine of ten or roughly 2 percent of the population.

“While Durga Puja brings festive cheer and happiness, the vibes had been missing in my neighbourhood for years. While the rest of the city would be immersed in celebrations, our area seemed to be cut off from the joy and festive spirit elsewhere. However, we are happy now as the Puja is back in our vicinity,” said a woman clad in a burqa, asking not to be named.

About 15 years back, Alimuddin Street would throb with the same festive fervour as elsewhere in Kolkata, with the locals organising a Durga Puja. However, as the years rolled by, most Hindu families migrated to other places, putting a brake on celebrations.

“Everyone who lives in Bengal is a Bengali by heart. My father Wasiur Rahman would actively participate in Durga Puja several years ago. I, too, enjoyed the festival a lot as a child. I am delighted that we are organising Durga Puja again after such a long time. If I can do dandiya, why can’t I visit a pandal?” said Tauseef, a social activist.

“Durga puja is a cultural festival and Bengal has always stood up for communal harmony,” he added.

The Puja committee has hired two Bengali priests to do the rituals by the book. Speaking to The Indian Express, Jayanta Sen, a Brahmin who will assist the priests in officiating the puja, said, “All these years, we would be sitting at home during the Puja while revellers took to the streets. It didn’t sit well with me. Now, we have our own Puja pandal. Both Hindus and Muslims went to fetch the idol. From this year on, we will celebrate the festival with enthusiasm and fervour,” Sen said.

Abdul Rahman is also excited to have the Puja back in his midst. “It’s like reliving my childhood. I am feeling nostalgic. Listening to the beats of dhak and seeing locals milling excitedly about our pandal makes my heart leap with joy,” he said.

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