Nagpur, Oct 9: Unity in diversity, brotherhood among religion, love for the other-these are mere utopic terms these days, especially when the country is ridden with communal riots and division of state. But, the world has not yet come to an end when it comes to these terms, especially when there are people like Mohsin Pathan and Hussanibi Shaikh who form active members of a Durga Puja Committee in Nagpur.
Pathan for instance surprised the municipal commissioner when he entered the office wearing a skull cap and a pathan suit, seeking permission for putting up a Durga puja pandal. "We had gone to meet him right after the Friday namaz and were wearing namazi topis. He called us in and asked the purpose of the visit. He couldn't believe when we sought permission for the pandal and said that never in his career had he received such a request from a Muslim,"said Mohsin beaming, while giving an interview to a Times of India reporter.
Interestingly, Mohsin is a part of a 38-year old group of central government employees of the Ordnance Factory who have been celebrating the Durga Puja like a family. No prizes for guessing, Mohsin is not the only one from a different religion in this group. There is equal and active participation from Christians and Neo-Buddhists too. "People from all over the country work in this factory. We have extended the feeling to this festival also," says Anoop Shrivastav, the founder member of the Nav Durga Utsav Mandal, Sector 8, Defence.
While the members of this group look forward to the Puja, they chalk out their plans accordingly so that they can be a part of the evening Aarati. Pathan, for instance, is happy that his application for a shift change has been approved so that he is able to perform the evening aarati.
Since the committees inception in 1976, many people involved with it have passed away, but the tradition has been carried forward by the new generation. Amitabh Apreja's father was an active member of the group, but after him Amitabh took up the responsibility of maintaining his associations with the committee.
"My wife, who is a Muslim, takes active part," he says.
On asking his wife, Jaya Apreja (also known as Hussanibi Shaikh), her face lightens up when she describes her experiences. "I have always been very inclined towards these rituals. Such rituals are new to me but I do them with devotion and belief," she said. In fact, Jaya offers Namaz too, but performing the aarti gives her "immense joy".
Surprisingly, the committee does not depend on donations and the entire puja is done through individual contributions. In fact, the idol is made by their factory employee Chetan Marathe. "For 22 years, I have been making this idol. This work is special to me. So I make adjustments. If they tell me that this year they will pay me only an 'x' amount, I agree happily," he said.
You would be wrong if you thought 'that was it?'The committee also celebrates Ravan dahan on Dussera. "Between the installation and immersion, we follow all rituals. The highlight is Ravan-dahan," says Dipanjan Das, an active member of the mandal. "For nine nights, we prepare a skeletal structure from bamboo, fill it with dry grass and crackers and dress it in paper clothes. Nearly 10,000 people arrive from various areas to see the Ravan dahan," he further added.
Durga Puja is the most important festival among the Bengalis and is celebrated for 5 days. Its manifestations are celebrated across the country for 9 days in the form of Navratri. West Bengal, however, attains an attire of colour, lights and festive moods. In fact, chief minister Mamata Banerjee can already be seen hopping pandals and inaugurating different pandals.
Widows of Vrindavan in a festive mood in front of Howrah Bridge during Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Widows of Vrindavan in a festive mood in front of Belur Math during Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata on Tuesday.
A 104-yr old lady with other widows of Vrindavan visiting the Belur Math during Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Ushaben Dave, 66, wearing a metal structure consisting of 1,261 oil lamps, prays during a ritual known as Aarti at the Navratri festival in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad October 8, 2013. The festival, which is held in honour of the Hindu goddess Durga, is celebrated over nine days.
Laddoos being prepared in the ancestral house of the President Pranab Mukherjee ahead of his arrival for Durga Puja celebrations, at Mirati village in Birbhum district of West Bengal on Tuesday.
In West Bengal
Former Cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar inaugurating a Durga Puja pandal in the presence of West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, at North 24 pargana district in West Bengal on Monday late evening.
Widows of Vrindavan visit a Durga Puja pandal during Navratri festival in Kolkata on Monday.
Widows of Vrindavan take part in a Durga Puja procession during Navratri festival in Kolkata on Monday.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurating goddess Durga puja in Kolkata on Sunday.
Governor of West Bengal M K Naryanan performs " Dhak (Dram)" during inaguration first Durga Puja in Kolkata on Sunday.
Idols of Goddess Durga being taken to the puja pandels for the upcoming Durga puja festival in Kolkata on Sunday.