Friday 28 January 2022
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Kolkata puja organiser’s ‘communal harmony’ shocks all

In Kolkata, Beliaghata 33 Pally puja organisers first disarmed Goddess Durga, then did not care to observe rituals of shakti puja and finally played azan on loudspeakers

Since 4 October, the Durga Puja organised in the Beliaghata 33 Pally neighbourhood of Kolkata has attracted criticism and the wrong kind of attention not only on social media but also across the country. Organiser Rintu Das came up with the idea of showcasing ‘communal harmony’ in the puja arena by putting up frescos depicting various faiths in the pandal. But that had bothered none.

Trouble began when on shashti, people noticed that the idol of Goddess Durga was not a standard one either. Her hands wielded no weapon. Worse, the devi was not invoked by the chanting of ritualistic mantras. All hell finally broke loose when, in keeping with the theme of the arena, Das and fellow organisers played azan over the loudspeakers.

It was asked both on social media and in the real world whether a mosque or a church would allow Gayatri Mantra. Subsequently, even Muslims joined the protest, saying that a puja arena was not an appropriate place to invoke Allah.

Innovative themes are a hallmark of Durga Puja in Kolkata. Every year, a few current affairs make it to the themes of some famous pujas in the capital of West Bengal. Das and friends seems to have taken it a bit too far by not just clubbing Hinduism and Islam but also severely compromising on the Hindu aspect with an incomplete murti and near-total absence of rituals.

In the entrance to the arena, replicas of arms resembling those of the devi are shown holding not just the sign of Oum (ॐ) but also of Islam in the form of the crescent with a star and the holy cross of Christians, among symbols of a few other religions.

Ratno Rudra wrote on his Facebook wall, “After disarming Ma Durga, now Aazaan being played in Durga Pandal in Kolkata. How much more insult & humiliation should Hindus face in WB? And for how long?”

Prithwis Mukherjee wrote, “Beliaghata 33 “Palli” has stripped Durga of her armaments and forcing her to listen to the Azaan : “I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” … beyond DISGUST.”

Akshay Singh wrote on Twitter, “Nothing more dangerous than this. Hell with Secularism, Please save West Bengal. Azan is being played in Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata… Did you anyone ever heard any mantra in any Mosque?”

Subho Sarkar made an elaborate argument, sharing the same video as Singh, in this thread of tweets:

People see a stark contrast in the behaviour of Islamic people and states here in the backdrop of a diktat issued by Bangladesh Police in the Sylhet district where Puja organisers have been ordered to keep their loudspeakers off at the time of azan.

Prakash Begwani asks Sagarika Ghose whether the onus of respect for other religions was on Hindus alone.

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