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Regular-article-logo Friday, 12 July 2024

Puja gift 'beyond imagination' in Rampurhat

Mohammed Sirajuddin has given his neighbourhood a temple

Snehamoy Chakraborty Rampurhat Published 04.10.19, 08:33 PM
Mohammed Sirajuddin (extreme left) at the Durga Puja at the temple he built in Rampurhat

Mohammed Sirajuddin (extreme left) at the Durga Puja at the temple he built in Rampurhat (Pritam Das)

The felicitation of an unlikely guest marked the onset of the Puja at Nabapally in Rampurhat town on Sasthi.

Mohammed Sirajuddin stood smiling shyly at the mandap, bouquet in hand and “teeka” on his forehead, soaking in the organisers’ expressions of gratitude for a gesture that was “beyond their imagination” and made this year’s Puja possible.

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The 52-year-old promoter had built a permanent temple for the Puja just when an increasingly crowded Nabapally seemed to have run out of space for the festival.

“Only a few months ago we were unsure whether we would have a Puja at all. But within a few weeks, things that we could not have imagined happened because of Siraj,” one of the organisers said.

Residents said that since its beginning in 2005, the Nabapally Sarbojanin Durgotsav had been held on a vacant, 800sqft plot of land in the bustling suburb.

“But late last year, Sirajda acquired this plot from owner Pareshnath Bhakat, planning to erect a four-storey house. When we learned of this, we became worried about the future of our Puja,” an organiser said.

“There’s no space left in this area, other than that one plot, for people to gather or erect a pandal.”

A few Puja committee members arranged a meeting with Sirajuddin to seek his permission for the Puja. “But he responded with something unimaginable,” Puja secretary Sadhan Das said.

Sirajuddin not only agreed to let the Puja continue on the plot but offered to build a temple for the purpose at his own expense. Sources said it cost nearly Rs 3 lakh to build the 350sqft brick-and-mortar structure.

“Sirajda first surprised us by agreeing to let the Puja continue. He then said the Puja would be different this year: it would happen in a permanent structure,” said an organiser, Soumen Dutta, who runs a pathology lab in Rampurhat town.

“We were a little confused and said we would not have the funds for that. That is when he told us that he would build us the temple.”

Earlier this week, the organisers decided to felicitate Sirajuddin on Sasthi.

“I had no doubts in my mind about what I should do,” Sirajuddin told this newspaper. “This isn’t a communal question --- Durga Puja is a festival for everyone and cannot be stopped at any cost.”

He added: “I have enjoyed Durga Puja with my school friends as a youth. It makes me happy to see people enjoy this festivity. I shall be behind this Puja in future too.”

Biswajit Mandal, an associate professor of economics at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, lauded Sirajuddin.

“His gesture, apart from contributing to secular harmony, also adds to socio-economic interdependence --- independently of religious identities ---- in a rural society,” Mandal said.

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