The members of a single Hindu family in a Kolkata’s Muslim locality are being made feel special as their neighbours have erected the Durga Puja Pandal for them, and all are set to join the festivities of the biggest religious and cultural festival of Bengalis with them, for the second year.
Kolkata lives up to its sobriquet of the city of Joy during the Puja. Not only do merrymaking, prayers, and cultural festivities mark the five-day festival but there are conscious efforts by people of all faiths to highlight and cement the communal harmony of the city through the festivities.
The city of joy is going to have a Puja pandal built by Muslims on the theme of harmony. At another Pandal, the Christian nuns of the Missionaries of Charity synonymous with the city, would visit for prayers and engage with their Hindu neighbours..
At numerous Pandals, Hindu and Muslim women can be seen performing the Puja rituals together. Sex workers are as much part of the celebration as anyone else.
There is a venue where the chanting of Durga Mantra and Azaan from the nearby mosque will be heard simultaneously.
The local Muslims of Aleemuddin Street resumed the Durga Puja last year after 16 years. A six member committee of all Muslim members is in charge of the annual festival. It’s here that the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity will join their Hindu and Muslim neighbours during the prayers and festivity.
“We are organizing this pooja for a single Hindu family in our neighborhood. Last year, this pooja attracted all sections of the society," said Muhammad Shabbir, a member of the committee.
Muslim have been organizing Durga Puja under the aegis of a five-star club in Khizrpur for about 70 years. Among the organizers, 13 are Muslims.
Alipur's Pelli Durga Puja is also an example of communal harmony. The puja pandal attached to a mosque has been an example of religious tolerance for 63 years.
According to Puja Secretary Soro Majumdar, 40 of the 70 members of the organizing committee are Muslims. They (Muslim members) are involved in all activities - from collecting funds and distributing bhog to participating in Sandhi Puja.
Elaborating on the design of the pandal, artist Anirban Das said that according to rituals, it is necessary to use a handful of mud from the threshold of the brothel during Durga Puja. However, the sex workers were not openly welcome at a Durga Puja Pandal.
This is changing too. This year’s pandal is modeled after a 'red light area' and visitors will be able to see the hard lives and sad stories of its residents.