Kolkata, Oct 11 IANS | 2 years ago

Breaking religious barriers, an over 400-year-old Durga Puja in West Bengal's Hooghly district proudly includes Muslim families as part of the celebrations and preparations for the five-day annual festival.

It's a family affair for the Ghoshs at Begampur town - about 30 km from Kolkata - in the district. For more than four centuries, they had stayed away from the aristocratic zamindar (landlord) tag.

Despite protests from a few orthodox sections, Aloke Ghosh and his predecessors have striven to include the Muslims as part of the celebration.

The landmark moment occurred around eight years ago when the gigantic 20-feet-high goddess Durga idol placed on a trolley was tugged all the way to the immersion pond by a Muslim.

"A Muslim man knew how to make his way through the narrow alleys with the deity's heavy idol, as he had ferried the idols of goddess Kali earlier. But it was for the first time that he was asked to convey the idol of our family puja... this led to massive protests," Ghosh told IANS.

However, Ghosh and his siblings stood firm on their decision, and now the local members of the community regularly participate in Vijaya Dashami celebration every year.

"They come during the immersion... previously they were not allowed. We are trying to make it a celebration that cuts through socio-religious barriers," said Ghosh.

Earlier, the family temple was re-built by a Muslim mason after the Hindu worker they had employed cheated them and ran away with valuables.

"You won't be able to recognise here who is Hindu and who is Muslim... our names are also similar... even the Hindus know how to offer namaaz," added Ghosh.

(Posted on 11-10-2013)