Monday, October 13, 2008

Prospects of becoming a tourist hot-spot: The origin of mass Durga Puja celebration

Anwar Ali, Rajshahi

This old temple has now become a breeding ground for weeds and has been reportedly encroached by Taherpur College authorities(left); The peak of the Shiv Temple in Taherpur (right) Photo: STAR

The tourism prospect of Taherpur was focused on while observing the greatest Bengali Hindu festival Durga Puja at the remote town under Bagmara upazila where the festivities were introduced 528 years ago.Durga Puja in this region was initiated by Raja Kangsa Narayan Roy Bahadur in 1480 (Bengali year 887). Folklore researchers believe that the Durga Puja celebration started widely in this sub-continent since its observance by Raja Kangsa Narayan.“Durga Puja used to be celebrated within the family parameters before the Taherpur dynasty started observing it as a universal celebration,” said folklore researcher Dr. Saifuddin Chowdhury of Rajshahi University.In the old days, Durga Puja was celebrated with fitting grandeur in the area. People of all religions used to enjoy local operas, dramas and fairs on the occasion, said Kartik Chandra Saha, president of the local 'Puja Udjapon Committee'. “Though now the celebration is on a much lower scale, the enthusiasm is nevertheless sincere,” he said, adding that devotional songs including kirtan were performed everyday during the puja.“Pegged as 'the venue where ceremonious Durga worship began,' Taherpur holds an appealing prospect of becoming a tourist hot-spot,” said Shyamol Kumara Saha, general secretary of the Puja Udjapon Committee.According to Hindu mythology, Ram, elder son of King Dashrath, was the first to perform Durga Puja to save people from the tyranny Raban, King of Lanka. Ram destroyed Raban's kingdom and rescued his wife Sita from imprisonment. Since then, Durga Puja was observed privately at homes until its "Sharbojonin (for all) celebration was introduced by Raja Kangsa Narayan.Locals allege that Taherpur College authority is using the palace of Raja Kangsa Narayan. Moreover, the authority has recently encroached a part of the temple where the main Durga Puja was observed, according to sources. “The encroached part is used during Saraswati Puja and left uncared for throughout the rest of the year,” said Kartik."Since it is the site of origin of the holiest occasion observed by Bengali Hindus, Taherpur can be turned into a pilgrimage that can draw millions of visitors, especially during the autumn festival," said Kartik.He suggested that a well-furnished festival auditorium and low-cost resorts for the visitors were needed."India makes good economic use of its famous Muslim heritage sites like Ajmer Sharif by maintaining the sites as religious tourist spots. Why can't we benefit from one of the most important sites according to Hindu myths?" he questioned.

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