In the 17th century, the local Hindu King Madan Roy donated land to Pir Ghazi Mubarak Ali for setting up the iconic mazaar in Ghutiari Sharif, Bengal's South 24 Parganas district, after the latter cured the former from a serious bout of illness. Every year, a large fair is organised in Ghutiari Sharif in June coinciding with the famous Ambubachi Mela at the Kamakhya temple. Today the mazaar forms a revered pilgrimage or happy meeting ground of Hindus and Muslims alike! Or the concept of Bonbibi in the Sunderbans—the deity bearing the essence of a syncretic culture with the rituals shared by the people of both communities. Indeed, this has been the tradition of Bengal since centuries bearing the humanitarian legacy of Bangaliana—handed through generations by Lalon Fakir Rabindranath Tagore Kazi Nazrul Islam to name a few!
As a matter of fact, such bonhomie transcending religious barriers used to dominate the Bengali society in the last few decades also which seems a "distant dream" right at this juncture!
Whenever the holy festival of Eid-Uz-Zuha knocks at the horizon, my mind promptly goes in a flashback mode when I was studying in a college in Hooghly district, West Bengal. We used to live in our college hostel where a significant percentage of the boarders happened to be Muslims. An extremely cordial and friendly environment used to dominate our hostel premises.
The home of two of our close friends, Younas Ali Seikh and Basir Ali, were comparatively nearby and so they used to invite us to their village to celebrate Eid. And when that much cherished D-Day arrived, our group of four boys used to start our journey. After reaching our destination station by train, a remarkable journey on the roof of the bus through the green fields of rural Bengal. And after descending, a walk of about 2 kilometre along ponds and plantations. And thereafter we could locate the village of our friends at a far distance amidst coconut trees and bamboo groves.
A small simple white mosque surrounding which villagers of all ages used to be in their cheerful best! Not to forget the unfathomable warmth, love and hospitality of the parents, family members and neighbors of Younas and Basir. A relishing lunch consisting of delicious dishes (let it remain unsaid whether it comprised meat of a particular brand or not, lest I meet the same fate as Mohammad Akhlaque in these times of "Good Days") used to make our day. Oh, what a day it used to be!
In this context, I feel proud to recollect how our seniors like Abdul Jalal, Wazed Hussain or Qazi Imdadullah used to lead or guide us during the celebration of Saraswati Puja in our hostel. Also I remember how the Muslim acquaintances used to visit the home of my cousin sister to celebrate Bhai-Phonta!
Yes, this was my Bengal enriched in the secular humanitarian legacy of our illustrious greats! Rogue elements exist in each and every society of the world who vitiate the environment to meet their vested interests. Such elements are pathetically increasing and have started dominating in Bengal also tarnishing the secular humane ambience of the state and threatening it's long nourished tradition of Bangaliana(just like Kashmiriyat) transcending all petty barriers of religious divide.
Even a minimum trace of sanity and rationality demands that Bengalis remain extremely cautious so that those rabid communal elements do not succeed in conquering the inherent humanity embedded within the traditional culture of the state.
First published:9 Apr 2021, 6:30 am
Special Contributor, KOLKATA, West Bengal