Preparations for celebrating Durga Puja, the largest religious festival of the Hindu community, are going on in Bagerhat with the famous ‘Shikdar Bari Durgotsob’ on a limited scale like the last two years following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the pandemic, the elaborate puja celebrations organised by the Shikdar family will be on a limited scale for the third consecutive year to protect the rituals, said Shishir Shikdar, a member of the family's Shikdar Bari Durga Puja organising committee.
Like the visitors and Hindu devotees, the organisers are also upset because the grand celebration of Durga Puja is not being organised on a large scale. But provided that the pandemic tapers off, from next year Durga Puja will be organised on a large scale like before, Shishir added.
The Tradition of Shikdar Bari’s Durga Puja
In 2011, Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar introduced the grand celebration of Durga Puja with 251 idols at his ancestral home Hakimpur village of the Bagerhat Sadar upazila.
He wanted to raise society's awareness of the value of practicing Sanatana dharma (traditional religion, or Hinduism) through the grand puja.
Since then, the number of idols of gods and goddesses has been increasing there every year.
In 2019, Durga Puja was organised with 801 idols of gods and goddesses on the Shikdar Bari Puja mandap.
The celebration became more vibrant and different every year to spread the festival among people of all religions.
Around autumn with the fragrance of Shiuli in the air, millions of visitors and devotees from all over the country, regardless of caste and religion, flock to the spectacular Shikdar Bari’s puja mandap.
The preparations for the celebration of Shikadar Bari Durga Puja ran almost throughout the year. The artisans started making idols six to seven months in advance with straw and clay. Idols were decorated with different colours and different types of ornaments, both local and foreign.
Three months before the puja, the workers would be busy with decoration and lighting work.
Various gods and goddesses of Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga were arranged in this puja mandap as companions of Mahamaya Goddess Durga.
Eminent industrialist Liton Shikdar, son of Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar, was organising the festival with his own initiative.
Unfortunately, this traditional Durga Puja is being organised in that puja mandap to protect the religious rituals on a limited scale.
Amit Roy, president of Bagerhat District Puja Udjapan Parishad, said numerous visitors and devotees from different countries have celebrated the puja at ‘Shikdar Bari Durgotsob’. But visitors are unable to do so in these last three years.
He thinks that Shikdar Bari Durgotsob was the biggest puja mandap in Asia. He also hoped that this puja would be organised on a large scale in Shikdar Bari in the future with the old glory.
Jujosh Kanti Mandal, a government college teacher, said, "This generation of ours gained a lot of knowledge from the Puranic tradition (one of the most important traditions of historiography in ancient India) in the past years by visiting Shikdar Bari Durgotsob."
As there is no Durga Puja on a large scale, they are deprived in that regard.
When talking to several people of different age groups including Dulal Das, Kalipada Mandal, Manjur Rani Pal and Sejuti Halder, they said they have been visiting 'Shikdar Bari Durgotsob' for nine years from the beginning till 2019.
Stepping up to Shikdar Bari’s puja mandap felt like they had reached heaven, in the presence of so many deities, expressed the visitors, demanding a grand celebration from next year.
Durga Puja and security measures
The religious festival will begin with Mahalaya on Sunday while the ceremonies will take place from October 1 to October 5.
This year there will be 32,168 Puja mandaps across the country. Goddess Durga will come to the earth riding an elephant through the Maha Sashthi Puja this year.
Installation of CCTV cameras has been made compulsory at all puja mandaps ahead of Durga Puja to ensure security, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.
To ensure security at the puja mandap, additional forces of law enforcement agencies will be deployed as necessary.
Besides, Durga Puja organisers have been told to deploy volunteers to ensure security. The authorities concerned have been asked to provide wristbands to volunteers that will help the police to identify them.