flavours of a festival
In Dhaka one of the most important events of the year is Janmashthami or Lord Krishna's birthday, also a national holiday in Bangladesh and second only to Durga Puja in importance in the Bengali Hindu calendar. The Janmashthami procession starts from the Dhakeshwari Jatio Mandir, located southwest of the Salimullah Hall of Dhaka University, and proceeds through the streets of Old Dhaka. Devotees fast, worship Lord krishna and keep vigil through the night while listening to his tales and exploits, recite hymns from the Gita, sing devotional songs, and chant the mantra Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Concerts and charity drives are also a regular fixture within the temple throughout the year. Each year, Dhakeshwari Temple hosts major blood drives and inocculation programs which are open to all residents of Dhaka city.
Another important Hindu event is the Manasa Puja, observed on the nagpanchami tithi (the fifth day of the lunar month). Manasa, the goddess of snakes, also known as the goddess of agriculture, is generally worshipped for protection against snake bites. Conversely, disrespect to her brings catastrophe, usually in the form of the disrespectful person being killed by a snake. It's still customary in many places of the country to worship clay idols of the goddess by offering milk and banana in a pot or at the foot of a tree called sij. In some places, Astamangala is sung for eight days after the puja. Musical plays based on Manasa are also held at other times of the year.
Photo: Amirul Rajiv