It&’s a sight that never ceases to amaze on Vijayadashami – people leading processions on both sides of the border and carrying Durga idols of all shapes, sizes and vivid colours to the banks of river Kushiyara in the quaint town of Karimganj, Assam in India and Zakiganj in Sylhet in Bangladesh for immersion.
Separated by man-made borders, thousands of devouts on either side of India and Bangladesh are brought together by their deity on the culmination of nine days of festivities of Durga Puja as they throng the banks of river Kushiyara to bid adieu to goddess Durga.
The river that separates the two countries serves as the common immersion place during the last day of the festival.
“In Karimganj, more than a thousand idols are immersed during Dashami every year. We make special arrangements, like barricading, etc to ensure safety. There has never been a conflict with Bangladesh on this issue,” Manash Das, former Karimganj Municipal Board chairman, said.
“In the flag meeting between the Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), senior officials discussed security issued related to the Vijayadashami,” a BSF official said on conditions of anonymity.
Well, it&’s not just the flowing waters that connect the two countries during the festival period.
During Durga Puja, this small town, which maintains a low profile throughout the year, welcomes many visitors from across the border with open arms.
“Many pujas are held at Sylhet in Bangladesh where I reside, and there is a whiff of festivity in the air. But, it was nothing compared to adjacent India, I was assured by my friends who had been here earlier,” 57-year-old Nimai Chandra Das told thestatesman.com as he crossed the border this year to celebrate pujo with his kinsmen in India.
“I had heard so much about the grandeur of the pujas in Karimganj and Silchar that I decided to visit this time. I could hear the distant drums as I cleared immigration at Kalibari Road in the heart of Karimganj town.
“Though the pujas were still two days away, I could feel the frenetic activity of the organisers and shoppers,” he added.
From Maha Saptami up to Vijayadashami, Karimganj lights up tastefully, the Indian and international monuments and landmarks are simulated accurately almost to the last grain.
With sundown, the real action begins as the streets are absolutely packed with people of all ages, well after midnight, enjoying themselves, an ambience to be unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
“The town truly became a huge carnival ground for four days. It is difficult for me to describe the cultural clash that I encountered.
“I simply envied the girls with their western attire zipping around on their ‘scooties’,” Sumi Saha, a resident of Upasahar, Sylhet, said, speaking about her ‘Indian Durga Pujo’ experience.
While Karimganj serves as a perfect host to all the visitors from Bangladesh, many residents of the town, separated from their kith and kin due to political boundaries, also visit the neigbouring country during this time of the year to celebrate the autumnal festival.
A retired government official, Gouri Shankar Bhattacharjee, for instance got nostalgic as he took a trip down the memory lane and remembered how Durga Puja was celebrated when he was in Bangladesh with his wife and daughter.
Bhattacharjee is now “looking forward” to “celebrate puja in Bangladesh again in the future,” as “the magic created by crowds in the high-security pandals of Bangladesh, bustling fetes, pulsating drums, bewitching lighting, and aroma of food” was unlike anything he had “experienced in India so far”.
As goddess Durga is immersed in the waters of Kushiyara, the guests also cross the borders with fond memories and hopes to come back and celebrate again with others in this country.