Durga Puja in Puran Dhaka

Posted on October 7, 2011


Yesterday marked the fifth and final day of Durga Puja, a major Hindu festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga. The event marks the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishadura, and is a particularly significant religious festival for Bengali-speaking Hindus.

The streets of Old Dhaka – particularly around Dhakeswari National Temple, Sadarghat port and Shakhari Bazar (also known as Hindu Street) – were crowded with the fluorescent statues of a violent-looking Durga carrying a spear, defeating a demon and being chased by a tiger or lion. Life-sized replicas of Mother Durga, accompanied by her children Ganesh, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kartik, were hoisted above the street on platforms that thick crowds stooped under to make their prayers.

Like most Hindu festivals and celebrations, Durga Puja is colourful, chaotic and absolutely throbbing with excitement. Within half an hour of arriving my face was covered in bright vermillion powder that women had wiped across my cheeks and forehead as they walked past. Everyone was in the mood for chatting and the narrow streets were lined with hundreds of stalls selling bejewelled trinkets and sweets.

At the end of the day, the statues were carried down to the Buriganga River and tossed into the water to bid farewell to the Goddess for another year. Thousands and thousands of people danced, cheered, cried and sang alongside the statues on their long procession to the water.

Here are some photos and video that I took hurriedly on my phone along with a little soundscape of the atmosphere. I was caught up in the moment and not interested in getting perfect shots so these do absolutely no justice to the beating drums, the giant statues, the wails and chants of worshippers, and the thick smoke of incense enveloping it all. Let your imagination run wild!

Of course, festival-goers need festival rides. Check out this OHS-unfriendly but environmentally-friendly ferris wheel. Look for the man physically spinning it in the bottom left corner!

…These are the things that make me love Dhaka!