In a brilliant example of communal harmony, Muslims have been managing the Durga Puja committee of a temple in Bihar to help Hindus celebrate the Navratri festival with a difference. ‘Navratri’ is a nine-day festival celebrated by Hindus in India to pay obeisance to the deity Durga. This year, the nine-day festival concludes on Friday.
This unique scene of communal brotherhood is on display at Kirodimal Gajannad Durga temple located in Begusarai, some 140km east of Patna.
What is even more surprising, Muslims have been dominating the Kirodimal Gajannad Durga temple committee which manages the festival, conducts temple rituals of daily prayers and even distributes offerings among devotees who visit the temple. Of the total 24 members in the temple committee, 17 are Muslims.
True to their representation, Muslims are proving their worth through dedicated service. They can be seen joining the Hindus in cleaning temple floors, decorating the temple, and making arrangement for the festival.
“It’s a matter of great pride for us that we have been arranging the festival together for years. We live in harmony and celebrate all festivals together,” temple committee members Mohammad Anwar and Mohammad Akbar Khan said.
According to them, this tradition is continuing for the past 97 years since the temple was established in 1921.
“We offer all kinds of help. Be it cleaning, decorating the temple, taking care of the visiting crowd or serving offerings to the devotees, we do it with enthusiasm. We find it our responsibility,” said another temple committee member Mohammad Habib.
Temple committee president Ashok Kumar Goenka said they can’t think of celebrating the festival without the support of the Muslims. “In the 24-member Kirodimal Gajanand Durga Puja Committee, there are 17 Muslims and only seven Hindus. It is a unique Durga Puja Committee in Bihar that celebrates Durga Puja with fanfare,” says committee President Goenka with great pride.
But the fervour is not one-sided. Hindus too stop the temple public address system during Muslim prayers so that religious songs don’t disturb the prayers of the Muslim brethren. Hindus also join Muslims in arranging Muharram processions, celebrating Eid. Muslims offer namaz five times a day at the local mosque.
Earlier in April this year, Muslims helped renovate a Hindu temple in the Bakhari block of the same Begusarai district. The said temple was in a very dilapidated condition.
Taking note of its pitiable condition, a Muslim family not only donated land for the temple but also helped renovate it by offering physical labour and money.