Kali Puja--the beacon of communal amity is here. Puja time calls for celebration of traditional religious bonhomie. Let's take a moment to reflect on the secular culture transcending all narrow religious divide, which is a matter of immense pride for all.
Mahendrapur. Murshidabad district: Hindu residents might have left the village in search of better livelihood to urban centres, but Kali puja has not left Mahendrapur. The baton of worshipping her has been voluntarily taken up by the Muslim villagers who are performing it with full responsibility since 15 years.
Not just mere continuation of the puja, it takes the shape of a social tradition also as married daughters return to their parental homes just for the Kali puja.
Rampurhat. Birbhum district: Abbas Hossain, local councillor of the town voluntarily organises Kali puja here since more than 25 years with him taking the lead from construction of Pandal to arrangement of priest. No wonder why this Kali is famous as "Abbas Kali"! Apart from Hossain, the committee boasts of 20 members who are affiliated to Islam.
Habibpur. Malda district: Since last 36 years, a Muslim woman named Shephali Bibi organises Kali puja here with thousands of Hindus joining her in worship. Here the Devi is famous as "Shephali Kali"! And in Manikchak of the same district, a Kali puja gets organised near a mosque with Muslim members outnumbering Hindus in the club committee.
Shilbarihat. Alipurduar district: Since last three decades, Kali puja gets organised in this Hindu-minority village with active leadership and participation of Muslims. And 28-year-old Mohammad Manik of Malbazar, Jalpaiguri district, who had responded to his call of conscience and jumped in the fuming waters, saving at least nine precious lives (including three children) by endangering his own during the Durga puja immersion with the flash flood hitting the Mal river.
Manik (despite remaining true to Islam) not only appreciates the beauty of Durga puja immersion; but also possesses a magnanimous courageous heart to dive into the turmoil Mal to save Hindu devotees by battling more than two hours
To honour this great selfless humanitarian, a club of Kolkata suburbs has invited the valiant Mohammad Manik to inaugurate its Kali puja!
Will the self-appointed "guardians" of Indian "nationalism", learn a thing or two about traditional religious bonhomie, syncretic culture of Bengal, India from these heartening facts revolving Kali puja.
This secular culture transcending all narrow religious divide is a matter of immense pride for all sane humanitarians; the essence of which can never be appreciated by the merchants of hatred dominating in many parts of the country and always working all out to invoke communal hatred so as to reap electoral dividends.
It is high time Bengalis and all Indians ensure this secular legacy of communal brotherhood win the day and communal elements out to divide Bengal/India on religious lines be shown the door for ever.
(The views expressed are personal)