By Imran Khan
Patna, Sep 27: In a shining example of communal harmony and brotherhood, a group of Muslims have been managing the Durga Puja committee of a temple in Bihar and helping the Hindus to celebrate the festival with a difference.
Muslims in Bihar’s Begusarai district joined hands with the Hindus to celebrate the Durga Puja festival at a temple.
Muslims are in a majority in the 97-year-old Kirodimal Gajanand Durga Puja Committee that manages the festival, including conducting age old rituals, prayers and managing devotees at the temple dedicated to Goddess Durga in the heart of Begusarai, about 150 km from here.
“In the 24 members Kirodimal Gajanand Durga Puja Committee, there are 17 Muslims and only seven Hindus. It is a unique Durga Puja Committee in Bihar that celebrates Durga Puja with fanfare,” said Kirodimal Gajanand Durga Puja Committee President Ashok Kumar Goenka.
“We are proud that Muslims help us, support us to celebrate Durga Puja. The Durga Puja Committee is dominated by Muslims and they have set an example of harmony. This is unheard of anywhere else,” he added.
Munna Goenka, another member of the committee, said that “we can’t think of celebrating the festival in such a big way without the support of Muslims”.
Mohammed Anwar, Qamar Ansari, Chand Mian, Hashib, Zafar and Mohammed Farooque – all Muslims – not only help the Hindus to prepare for the festival but also join them in cleaning the temple premises, offer prasad to devotees besides assisting in other rituals.
“We have been helping the Hindu brothers to celebrate this festival.In fact, we are carrying on a tradition of our forefathers,” Anwar said.
“Muslims helped the Hindus decorate the Puja pandal and ensure that the festival passed off smoothly and peacefully”.
One of the dozens of Muslims who helped the Hindus celebrate the festival said that he and other members of his community were only continuing an age-old tradition.
“It is a matter of tolerance preached by Islam that one should help the other,” he added.
Zafar, another Muslim, said dozens of Muslim youths helped clean up the temple and streets for the festival.
“It is a classical case of communal harmony,” he added.
The cordial relations between Hindus and Muslims can be gauged from the fact that there is a tomb of a Muslim saint, which is located hardly five meters from the Durga temple, and a mosque, about 50 meters from it.
“We offered namaz five times in the mosque. And as a mark of respect and not to disturb us, the temple’s public address system stopped during the namaz,” Farooque said.
Ashok Goenka said that Muslims of his locality have decided not to take out processions in view of the Durga Puja during Muharram.
“Muslims have decided to take out Muharram procession within Karbala as a symbol and not to disturb Durga Puja,” he said.
Over 500 Muslim artisans are giving finishing touches to replicas of the Hindu temples and palaces crafted for the Durga Puja in Gaya, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Purnea, Bhagalpur, Madhubani, Nalanda, Bhojpur and other districts.
Some of these artisans are also making effigies of Hindu mythological demon king Ravana, which are to be set ablaze on Dussehra that coincides with the last day of Durga Puja.
Muslim craftsmen have been invited from West Bengal and Jharkhand by the organisers of various festival committees to compete with one another this festival season, which has become highly market-driven over the years.
In Patna, several Muslim youths and businessmen have joined in the Durga Puja celebrations. While some have donated funds for community prayers, others are helping to put up marquees in the Muslim-dominated areas like Sabzibagh, Kunkun Singh Lane and Ramna Road.