Saraswati Puja at Bangladesh Parliament – It is Progress Indeed

Published on Monday, January 19, 2015

{Postscript from the Author (January 27, 2015): It is a great disappointment that in spite of the initial consent by the Prime Minister and approval by the Speaker, there was actually no Saraswati Puja at the Bangladesh Parliament. I am not sure why the big leaders' approvals were not implemented. But there is no doubt that this reneging pleases and supports the Islamic/Muslim hate-mongers of Bangladesh.}

The Bangladesh Parliament is apparently ready to host the Saraswati Puja for the first time. The proposition was made by an MP (Pankaj Nath) who is from the Hindu community, was supported by the Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) and has been approved by the Speaker of the Parliament (Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury). Thus, the country and the world are likely to see the event happening there on January 25, 2015.

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and wisdom (bidya and buddhi) as per the Hindu religious belief. I remember my childhood, when my school friends and I were so enthusiastic about this puja. Three of my four schools were in Hindu-majority areas of Bangladesh; and this puja was a major celebration there. Of course, who else but the school pupils are likely to seek so eagerly the blessings of the goddess of knowledge and wisdom?

I came to know about this upcoming event at the Bangladesh Parliament through some Facebook postings, where links to the news articles were provided. Here is one with just the news (1). And here is one with objections to the event at that particular venue (2). I generally browse through the headlines of the Daily Star online, and the Daily Ittefaq online every day; and somehow I did not see this good news in these papers. Searching the key words, Saraswati, Puja, Bangladesh and Parliament via Google did not give me a hit to any major newspaper of Bangladesh. May be, I just did not pay attention to the news; and, of course, Google search is not necessarily a sure bet.

In any case, I am pleased that the distinguished leaders of Bangladesh have decided to allow Saraswati Puja to be celebrated at the parliament premises. This is in spite of the fact that I have stopped doing any puja many years back. I salute the leaders who are Muslims that did not mind an event of idol-worshiping at one of the most significant centers of power in Bangladesh. They have certainly proven to be better than the brainwash that the average Muslim child of the world gets. Through this act, they have proven to be respectful of the Hindu population of the country, along with the Muslim and Christian populations, some of whose religious celebrations have already been happening at the parliament. It is indeed a welcome progress for Bangladesh.

Looking at the objections to this event at that venue reminds me of my time in Boston during 1989-1992.

To make the story short, in 1991, there was a proposal to the Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE) for celebrating the Bijoya (the last and the most festive day of the Durga Puja). After the executive committee agreed to do/allow it, the community was informed via a newsletter. That triggered gossiping in the community of the academically well-qualified Bangladeshis, and too many of the members found it objectionable to allow that celebration by an organization of the Bangladeshi community that was Muslim-majority. Finally, the celebration was boycotted by most of the Bangladeshis of the greater Boston area. Admittedly, since then I am quite intolerant of not only religious hatred, but also of apparently innocent religious stupidity, especially among academically well-qualified individuals.

This event at the Bangladesh Parliament also reminds me of another event at the greater Boston area in 1989.

There was an upcoming North American Bangladesh Conference. I was informed by a religious Muslim gentleman that the conference would be opened via recitations from the Koran, the Gita and the Bible; and he asked me if I would be willing to recite from the Gita. I told him that I did not think that recitations from any religious book were needed/appropriate for opening that event, and that I would not do it. I respectfully advised the gentleman that someone being too much of a religious Muslim is no reason for me to be too much of a religious Hindu. However, the fact that they were reciting from more than just the Koran was a sign that they were respectful of the Bangladeshi identity of a lot of non-Muslims. There were some serious objections to this also, as some distinguished members of the greater Boston Bangladeshi community felt that it would be degrading to the Islamic holy book if the other two religious holy books were treated with the same kind of respect. But the better senses prevailed there.

I am actually very frustrated about the rapid growth of the religiously brainwashing machines of mosques and madrassas in Bangladesh. In that jungle, I see the Saraswati Puja at the parliament to be a sign of respect for a religious minority community, and I do appreciate it.

(1) (2)

======================== About the Writer: Sukhamaya Bain is a US citizen who was born in a place that is a part of today's Bangladesh. He is a scientist who feels strongly that societal justice is vital for the well-being of mankind. Thus, he occasionally writes on sociopolitical issues.

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