Dhaka: Tens of thousands of Hindus in Bangladesh took to the street today, amid beating of drums and chanting mantras as they ended the five-day celebration of Durga Puja with immersion of the idols of the goddess on Vijaya Dashami.
Hindus in colourful attires carried idols of goddess Durga to nearby rivers and water bodies to be submerged at the climax of the festival, the biggest for the minority community in the country.
Vijaya Dashami, marking the victory of good over evil, is the grand culmination of the 10-day annual Navaratri festival. Some 27,000 makeshift puja mandaps were installed in
Bangladesh, including 192 in the capital this year, the Central Puja Udjapon Parishad sources said, adding the total number of mandaps was 24,000 last year.
Amid tight security devotees thronged the Dhakeswari National Temple, the biggest and oldest in downtown Dhaka, for the immersion of the idol on the concluding day of the grand festival, which is a public holiday in the Muslim majority Bangladesh.
Hinduism is the second largest religious affiliation in Bangladesh, with 10 per cent of its 160 million population Hindus. In terms of population, Bangladesh is the third largest Hindu state in the world after India and Nepal. Private and state-run television channels and newspapers gave wide coverage to the main rituals during the five-day celebrations.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who visited the Dhakeswari temple yesterday, underlined the secular character of the nation where people of different faith are free to practice their religion. "Bangladesh is a secular country and secularism doesn`t mean absence of religion; it means people of all religions are free to practise their own religion, which has
also been mentioned in the holy Quran," Hasina said.
She was greeted with flowers by leaders of the Hindu community as the visit coincided with the Mahanobhumi celebrations at the fag end of the festival. President Zillur Rahman earlier hosted a reception for the members of the Hindu community at Bangabhaban. The authorities enforced a tight security, deploying hundreds of policemen and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) troops, particularly in the capital.
"We particularly thank the police and RAB men for their round-the-clock vigil in safeguarding pavilions throughout the country," Dipu Sen, vice president of the
Parishad, told PTI.
However, attacks by drunken mobs and even policemen on Hindu devotees and Durga Puja pandals in many parts of Bangladesh marred the festivities. Private Bdnews news agency reported sporadic incidents of attacks on puja mandaps from different parts of the country. Earlier reports said seven policemen were suspended in northeastern Sunamganj for their reportedly assaulting Hindu devotees. In suburban Narayanganj, 15 men under the influence of alcohol attacked a puja pavilion. The police arrested two of them.
"Even as the prime minister speaks of secularism and thanks her law enforcers for ensuring a peaceful environment, there are reports of attacks, even by cops, on puja mandaps across the country," the New Age, a leading daily said.