Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community, begins today with enthusiasm and much religious fervour across the country.
Shashthi Puja marking the beginning of the five-day festival will start by 9:58am, Milon Chakraborty, a priest of Dhakeshwari National Temple, told The Daily Star yesterday.
As many as 30,077 mandaps (makeshift temples) including 231 in Dhaka city are set to celebrate the festival, said Tapas Kumar Pal, general secretary of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad.
Leaders of the community this year have decided to curtail expenses of the puja to extend their support to Rohingyas fleeing recent persecution in Myanmar into Bangladesh.
During visits to several puja mandaps in the capital yesterday, artisans were seen having a busy time putting the final touches to the idols.
The mandaps have been decorated with colourful lights, artificial flowers, festoons, banners and paintings, with colourful arches at the entrance of a number of them welcoming devotees and guests.
“All works are almost done and whatever is left will be completed within midnight,” said Ratal Paul while working at Ramna Kali Temple in the capital.
Meanwhile, security measures have been beefed up at temples and mandaps with the deployment of additional squads of Ansar, police, Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies for peaceful celebration of the festival.
In separate messages, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conveyed greetings to members of the Hindu community, reports BSS.
The prime puja mandap in the capital is at Dhakeshwari National Temple. Large mandaps have also been put up at Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Ramna Kali Mandir, Siddheswari Kali Mandir, Tanti Bazar, Shankhari Bazar, Bangla Bazar, Banani, Dhanmondi and Farmgate.
With Mahalaya, marking the homecoming of Goddess Durga, having been observed a week ago, today's celebration will begin early morning with Shashthi Puja, Kalparambha and Bihit Puja following Bhodon (invocation) to the deity yesterday evening.
Throughout the day devotees will pray for her appearance on earth again after a year and seek forgiveness.
Mahasaptami will be celebrated tomorrow followed by Mahashtami on Thursday. Mohanabami and Bijoya Dashami will be observed on Friday and Saturday.
According to Hindu scriptures and the Bangla almanac, Durga Puja is observed in sync with the moon's movement. The five-day festivity and prayers begin on the sixth day of the full moon and ends on the tenth day or Bijoya Dashami.
Durga, the slayer of demon Mahishashur, appears to be riding on the back of a lion and accompanied by her children Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati with 10 weapons in her 10 hands.
At the invocation of the devotees, she descends on the earth, stays for the next four days and leaves after slaying all evil forces and blessing the devotees.
Every year, Goddess Durga arrives on a specific carrier and chooses another bearer for her departure. Her choice is seen to predict how the following year will fare for the world and its inhabitants.
Milon Chakraborty said Durga this year would arrive on a boat foretelling good harvests and floods and leave on a horse spelling doom for the world.
There is no specific security threat but security has been reinforced considering the present national and international situation, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Md Asaduzzamman Mia told journalists yesterday.
“I want to make it clear that there is no lack of security in the city,” he said at Dhakeshwari Temple while inspecting security arrangement there.
Puja mandaps were brought under camera surveillance. People will have to go through archways to enter major puja mandaps, he said and advised people not to carry handbags, vanity bags, packets, metal objects and any sharp items including knives to temples and mandaps.
After a meeting of the cabinet committee on law and order at the home ministry at the secretariat on Sunday, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said law enforcers took all necessary measures so that the Hindu community could celebrate their biggest religious festival peacefully.
The police headquarters instructed people not to upload any contradictory, objectionable and provocative videos or posts on the social media centering on Durga Puja in order to retain social peace.
Citizens have been asked as well to inform the law enforcing agency if anyone is found to be spreading contradictory messages to foil social harmony.
Meanwhile, Ain o Salish Kendra yesterday expressed deep concern over the incidents of idols of the goddesses being desecrated in different parts of the country and that in most of the cases the culprits remain untraced.
In a press release, the rights body urged the government to take necessary security measures to stop the recurrence of such incidents and urged people to remain alert.