On the auspicious hour of 10 AM in the spring morning of 20 Falgun of the Bengali year 1427, Friday March 5, 2021, a celebration began among the evergreen beauty of rural interior of Barisal district, Bangladesh. The event of re-dedication puja service of Sri Bishnu was conducted by monk Rev. Swami Jiban Maharaj, monk Rev. Swami Dayamoy Sadhu, pujarini (priestess) Mrs. Karmakar and by local village residents. Sri Bishnu or Sri Vishnu is the Lord of Creation. It seems that from the late First Millennia to mid-Second Millennia it became a tradition in Bengal in India to dedicate villages to Lord Bishnu.
As deltaic and plains Bengal is devoid of mountains and stones, the deities must either have been built in mountainous northern or northeastern India and transported to Bengal, or the stones and artisans were brought in Bengal via Ganga or Brahmaputra Rivers, much like the stone structures in ancient Egyptian civilization based on transportation of stones via Nile River. The black granite statue of Sri Bishnu (Vishnu) Murti (Deity) was dedicated by Ghosh-Dastidar Family ancestors in the 15th Century at Lakhsmankathi Village of Barisal District, in coastal east Bengal in India, now Bangladesh. The shrine was established in the 15th Century by the “Ghosh-Dastidar Family” when they established the village. The murti (statue) was erected in the Sri Bishnu Bari Mandir (Temple). Incidentally, the term Dastidar, a word of Persian origin, was given by the non-native Muslim ruler of Bengal region of India as an honorific title by foreign Islamic rulers who used Persian as the official language during their rule from the 14th Century. They depended on the family for governing the region. Islamic rulers were a small non-native minority ruling over a vast non-Muslim population.
Many locals called this Puno-Pratistha Re-dedication Ceremony as an unparalleled and ground breaking event since the Partition of India and Partition of Bengal in 1947. The temple was repaired in 2019 through 2020, but the celebration of re-dedication was postponed because of Covid crisis. Only after Bangladesh removed restriction on travel, the celebration took place.
The March 5, 2021 celebration started during the auspicious moment according to Hindu calendar, with glorious Surya, the Sun God showed the event with His blessing. Men, women and children were dressed in their best to make the event joyous and celebratory. Vast majority of the people were from poor and oppressed groups in the Muslim-majority nation. After the end of the first puja service, a reading from the Holy Bhagabat Gita was conducted by Monk Dayamoy Sadhu, with a question and answer session. This was followed by a second puja offering and arati – service with lit pradip (lamp) – by Monk Jiban Maharaj, followed by puja by pujarini (priestess) Karmakar.
The service was followed by a music session conducted by monk Jiban Maharaj, joined by attendees, followed by a philosophical homily. Rev. Jiban Maharaj said in his sermon, “I especially thank Baba (Father, Sabyasachi), Ma (Mother, Shefali), Shuvo, Sumedha, Shriya-Lakshmi and Joyeeta Ghosh-Dastidars of America for their dedication to improve the life of all Bangladeshis. I also thank Anirban of Singapore for helping us. I wish them a very long and productive life and of others all over the world. Om Shanti.” At the end of puja-arati prayer-lite-lamp service keynote speech was given by Mr. Swapan Kumar Mondol, a local luminary, followed by congratulatory addresses by other individuals. At the end of the service Prasad, blessed fruits and sweets offered to God, and bhog, the blessed cooked food offered to Lord Bishnu, were distributed to all the attendees, between 100 and 150 guests, both Hindu minority and Muslim majority. This follows a long tradition of joint celebration during peaceful times.
The process of reconstruction of the mandir (temple) began after this writer’s visit in early 2019 when the poor, oppressed villagers requested visitors’ help to repair the structure. In 1987 the new mandir was built by Amitabha Ghosh Dastidar of Kolkata (Calcutta). The original temple structure was destroyed during 1950s pogrom, when terrorists also demolished the other 18th Century mandir (temple) of Black Mother Kali, called Kali Bari or the Home of Mother Kali.
It is worth mentioning that after partition of India in 1947 into secular India and Islamic Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh became East Pakistan, and immediately began attacks on Hindu minorities, their shrines, ashrams, schools, libraries, homes and businesses. Dastidars, like other Hindus, especially educated families, wanted to stay in their homes, but after successive pogroms they were forced to flee from their homeland becoming homeless refugees in India. Since early 1980s Dastidars have been going back to their homeland regularly, though they were unable to enter their home. They have established many schools and hostels (dormitories) for the poor and the orphaned in Bangladesh, and in the Indian States of West Bengal, Assam and Mizoram, with the help of many Americans – Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, white, black, brown, yellow and of other colors.
I thank Mr. Mithun Biswas of Madaripur, Bangladesh for providing live video coverage through Facebook page. At times live broadcast was difficult because of WI-Fi connection in that remote rural corner of Bangladesh. In 2021 it takes between six to eight hours to cover a distance of 160 to 250 kilometers, from the Bangladesh capital Dhaka to Lakshmankati in the south depending on which ferry one takes to cross either mighty Padma or Meghna Rivers.
We welcome you to visit the shrine. On your way please visit Mahilara Mott, a historic place with a 350-year old shrine included in a book by UNESCO of historic mandirs of Bangladesh. This writer’s effort saved the historic 110 feet tall shrine. Check https://empireslastcasualty.blogspot.com/2019/01/mahilara-gour-nodi-barisal-bangladesh.html. It is just 400 meters north of Lakshmankathi on the main Dhaka-Barisal National Highway. Please email us for direction. If one wants, one can rent a room at Guest House of Madaripur Ashram, in Pathak-kandi neighborhood of Madaripur City for overnight stay, a short distance from both Mahilara and Lakshmankathi villages. One can use various modes of transportation to visit those sites.
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