Dhaka, Oct 03, 2022: A mosque on one side of a plot and a temple on the other. One can find Hindus and Muslims streaming onto the plot to pray every day, painting a perfect picture of religious harmony on the banks of the Chitra River in the Mahishkhola area of Narail, Bangladesh. Continuing a 40-year-old tradition, the residents of Mahishkhola have come together again this year to celebrate Durga Puja.
For nearly four decades, Hindus and Muslims have been celebrating their festivals with respect for each other. Most importantly, participating in each others’ celebrations with gusto has become a tradition here over the years.
The mosque — Mahishkhola Old Sub Registry Office Jame Masjid — got its name from the old sub-registry office which was situated in the area. The Masjid was established in 1974 next to that office. Later, in 1992, the mosque was renovated.
The temple — Mahishkhola Sarbojanin Puja Mandir — was established in 1980. Both the structures were built on a government plot by the locals who set out to show the strength of communal harmony.
There are three structures on the plot — the mosque, the temple and a hospital. The charitable hospital, named ’Sharif Abdul Hakim and Narail Express Hospital’ — is run by former Bangladesh cricketer and Awami League leader Mashrafe bin Mortaza.
A devotee, Subal Das, who came to see the Durga Puja at the temple, said, “I have heard a lot about this place. This place is a testimony to the communal harmony that we stand for. If everyone lives in such harmony, the world would be a much better place."
A resident of the area Hafizur Rahman Sagar Khan said, "We have been living in the area as members of the same large Hindu-Muslim family very peacefully. We have never had any dispute over any religion. The people of this area are not communal at all. Everyone respects one another’s religions.”
President of the Mahishkhola Sarbajanin Puja Mandir Committee Suman Das said, "This is a Muslim-majority area, but we never face any problem in our worship rituals. We have been peacefully living here together for a long time.”
The symbol of communal harmony of over 40 years stands in stark contrast to the violence that was reported during last year’s Durga Puja, with incidents of vandalism of temples emerging from Chandpur’s Hajiganj, Chattogram’s Banshkhali and Cox’s Bazar’s Pekua.
Khatib Hafez Maulana Enamul Haque of the Jame Masjid said, “We practise our religion, they practice their religion. No one has any problem. During our prayers, they stop any activity that could disturb our prayers. We extend the same courtesy to them. They resume their chanting and singing after our prayers.”
Mahishkhola Old Sub Registry Office Jame Masjid Committee general secretary Matiar Rahman said, “We have given our prayer schedule to the temple committee. The temple committee restricts their activities during our prayers. When the prayers are over, the temple worship goes on as usual. There is no conflict over this.”
A resident of the area, Hasibur Rahman, said, “The area is beautifully lit up during Durga Puja. People come from far and wide to see to the Puja here.”
Narail District Puja Celebration Committee president Ashok Kumar Kundu said, “Durga Puja has been organized in 582 mandaps of three upazilas (a sub-district administrative unit) of the district this year. Hopefully, like every year, the Puja will be completed peacefully in Narail.”
Narail Sadar upazila chairman and Narail district Awami League general secretary Nizam Uddin Khan Nilu said, “The people of Narail believe in the spirit of communal unity. A mosque and a temple existing on the same plot for over 40 years is proof of just that. Communalism has no place in Narail.”
Courtesy: India Today