It's been long since Durga Puja has become a festival in Muslim-majority Bangladesh where close to 8.0 per cent of more than 160 million people are now Hindu.
Despite communal tensions in recent years during the largest festival of the Hindu in the country participation of people from different faiths has given the celebration a unique character.
And the celebration in Bagerhat district has made a difference with the largest number of idols in a single puja mandap, reports UNB.
Organisers say a total of 151 idols of different deities have found their places, depicting the stories of Hindu epics--Ramayan and Mahabharat--at the Chulkathi Banikpara Puja Mandap in Bagerhat's Sadar upazila.
The display is attracting not only Hindu but also others to the Banikpara Mandap to have glimpses of the idols.
Celebration of Durga puja began at the Banikpara Mandap in 2001 in a small way. But in 2005, a massive celebration took place with 101 idols.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival was subdued in 2020 and 2021. But now, as restrictions have eased, organisers have made a comeback by breaking all the previous records.
In Bagerhat district, Durga Puja is being celebrated at 632 mandaps this year amid heightened security. Authorities have installed CCTV cameras with volunteers working tirelessly to avoid any untoward incidents.
Dipankar Kumar Sadhu, president of Chulkathi Banikpara Durga Puja Organising Committee, said that they were arranging the puja in a big way for the last couple of years for a specific reason.
"The idols at the mandap are representing many epic stories of our religion. We're trying to let people know about Hinduism. At the same time, we're trying to spread brotherhood and peace by welcoming everyone at the festival," he said.
"In future, we're planning to expand more," he added.
Ganesh Sarker, an idol maker, said that it has taken two and a half months for him and three other artisans to make 151 idols.
"The idols have been made based on the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. We've used local and imported colours and ornaments to decorate them. We've tried to make them in a way so that they look real," said Ganesh.
Visitors to the mandap were overwhelmed.
"We wait for this festival to take place. I've learned a lot about the Hindu religion after coming to the mandap. I think that such festivals should be organised everywhere in the country," said Sushmita Rani.
Despite the enthusiasm, some say they are afraid of communal violence.
Amit Roy, president of Bagerhat District Puja Udjapon Parishad, said they had taken precautions to avoid any untoward incident.
"We're afraid that radicals could attack us. That's why we've deployed a good number of volunteers to ensure security. We urge the government to ensure security at all the puja mandaps across the country," said Amit.
Mohammad Azizur Rahman, deputy commissioner (DC) of Bagerhat, said that the district administration has taken necessary steps so that people can celebrate the festival peacefully.
"The district and upazila administrations are monitoring the puja mandaps round the clock. We've told our officials to remain alert so that no one can spread any rumours," Azizur said.
KM Ariful Haque, superintendent of police (SP) of Bagerhat, said that they have deployed security officials including Ansar members along with police.
He said local committees have also been formed at the mandaps to ensure harmony.