Katyani Puja - Point of Convergence For All
The Durgra Puja is shortly followed by the Katyani Puja, which is celebrated in November. Although the city dwellers are little aware of Magura's Katyani Puja, it is a widely celebrated festival and is not only visited by people from all over the country, but also from our neighbouring countries. It is a unique Puja celebration that is more of a social gathering than a strictly religious one. The event is celebrated and enjoyed by people from all walks of life regardless of race or religion. A lot of effort and hard work goes into the preparation of the festival, the resultant product of which is a spectacular event graced with various attractions like several cultural games, stick fights, jatras, and a fair with stalls from different places of the country. It is not only an enjoyable occasion, but is also profitable financially as business people from many different places come and indulge in the fun-filled atmosphere. All in all, the Katyani Puja is an event awaited eagerly. It is a great opportunity to explore deeper into the culture and heritage of the country for those us who are keen on getting to know Bangladesh better.
If you think that Durga puja is the greatest religious festival of people of Hindu community in Bangladesh, you are in for a big surprise. As strange as it may sound, the Katyani puja has, over time become the main religious festival of the Hindu community of Magura, where it is celebrated with more enthusiasm than anywhere else in the entire sub-continent. This puja is celebrated here every year just a month after the Durga Puja. Idols of Katyani Puja are similar to that of Durga. Last year Katyani festival was staged from the 7th to the 11th of November.
According to Hindu scriptures, during the “Dapor Era” before appearing on earth Shree Krishna had sent his parents along with other family members to the mortal world. The inhabitants of Vraja nourished voluntary religious observance to get Shree Krishna along with his father Vasudev and mother Devakee as the son, friend, husband and God. The Gopbalas (milk maids) of the “Dapor Era” were the first ones to observe the month long Katyani puja at the beginning of the Dewali (the Bengali months of Kartik and Agrahayan) along the banks of the Jamuna. The idols they made were similar to “Devi Durga”. It was Shatish Chandra -a rich man from Parnanduali village in Magura sadar upazila- who first observed this Katyani puja about 54 years ago. Since then this puja has become very popular within the Hindu community and has been celebrated with much enthusiasm and festivity for the past 19 years.
With time Katyani puja has turned into the prime festival that reflects the heritage of Magura district, and one that is not just limited to Magura. The festival has proved to be a source of attraction for devotees and enthusiastic spectators from places like India and Nepal. The district always wears a festive look during Katyani celebrations as important landmarks and puja mandaps and the surrounding areas are illuminated with thousands of coloured lights. Long sessions of religious discussions, cultural functions, blood-donation programs, lathi khela (stick fights), Ha-du-du competitions and a month-long fair add more glamour to the festival. Tastefully decorated gates and arches are erected at the entrances of different mandaps and other important points of the town.
It is no exaggeration to say that the whole of Magura jives to the beat of Katyani during the five-day long programs. The pomp and color of the even has increased more and more in recent times as eminent socio-cultural and political personalities from Dhaka too, visit it every year.
The puja has been observed in Magura for the past 54 years, but it is only during the last nineteen years that it has become an event that is celebrated with such excitement. According to the organisers, Magura is the only place in the entire sub-continent where this event is celebrated with such grand preparation.
Although, like other parts of the country, Durga puja is also observed every year in Magura with due religious fervor and gaiety, it usually remains limited within the Hindu community along with a few people of other religions in the area. The Katyani festival is an exception in this respect. It is unusual and sometimes even unimaginable in many parts of the country even today to see people working and enjoying together an event with such enthusiasm regardless of their personal religious beliefs. Thousands of people visit Magura for the Ktyani festival with their vehicles causing serious traffic congestion on the roads and highway. In fact, the condition of the traffic gets so severe that it cannot be cleared by the police alone. It is then that the youngsters- regardless of whether they are Hindu or Muslim- help clear the traffic, maintain discipline in mandaps and surrounding areas and even cooperate with on duty policemen to keep the law and order under control. It is truly amazing to see how everybody works together to keep the festive Katyani puja mood alive. The weeklong holiday is not only enjoyed by the local common people, but also by government officials, non-government officials and employees. They cordially cooperate in their own ways to make the event a success.
“We are proud and satisfied as the people from all walks of life regardless of their religious affiliations as well as the local administration sincerely cooperate with us to celebrate the occasion successfully and to enjoy it peacefully', says Chitta Ranjan Shikder, the retired headmaster of Magura Academy High School. Mihir Lal Kuri, another organiser of the Katyani festival and also a college teacher says, “Though we have to pass ardous days to make the festival a success, we are proud as we feel that we can give something enjoyable to the people when they generally fated to suffer political and social unrest”.
Advocate Pradyut Kumar Singh says, “Katyani festival is the pride of the people of Magura as it is the only festival that attracts thousands of enthusiastic people from home and abroad to our district. We put all our efforts to uphold its glory so that Magura can earn greater popularity through its cultural heritage.”
A month-long fair is also arranged every year on the occasion of Katyani that also has, over time, turned into a centre for cultural exchange. It has become an ideal place for exhibiting products of different districts. The fair continues to be a source of national culture as opposed to the wide practice of city-based foreign culture. The fair is an exciting place to visit, especially for the children. Every year, the fair attracts a large number of visitors and sellers from different districts. Attractive wooden furniture, beautifully designed saris and lungis made by local weavers, cosmetics, shoes, knives, spades, scissors made of iron and steel are available at the fair. Also available is a huge variety of mouthwatering sweets that are thoroughly enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
A website has been designed by young Avik Majumder and Pizish Basak, to help us know more about the Katyani puja. The link for the website is www.geocities.com/katyanimag. A map of Magura that points out the address and location of Katyani puja mandaps, names, locations and charges of different residential hotels in town for those who would like to visit. Also mentioned are the locations and address of parking zones during the five days festival. Any other query about the Katyani Puja festival can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
(R) thedailystar.net 2006