After authorities halted the festival for the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country's renowned 'Shikdar Bari Durgotsob' is going to be reinstated on a large scale this year in Bagerhat.

The Shikdarbari Durgotsob, which faced a forced closure from 2020 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back on a grand scale. During the pandemic, Puja was organized on a small scale to uphold religious rites, but this year marks a resurgence of grandeur.

A total of 501 idols of gods and goddesses are gracing the Shikdarbari Puja Mandap, arranged with precision and artistry.

In the eleventh hour, the work of adorning and embellishing the idols in the puja mandap is in progress. Various modifications are being introduced to the idols to captivate visitors. Deities from Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali Yuga are interspersed throughout the puja mandap as companions to Mahamaya Goddess Durga.

The pandal is a vibrant spectacle, with artisans putting final touches to the idols just moments before the festival kicks off. Various modifications and creative flourishes have been added to captivate the visitors, creating a captivating ambiance.

Vijay Krishna Bachar, the sculptor behind the artistry, said that a team of 15 dedicated artisans spent five months crafting the 501 idols of various gods and goddesses.

Liton Shikder, the organizer of Shikdar Bari Durga Puja, said that despite performing puja for the past three years to preserve religious rituals, the Durgo Festival couldn't be held due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Durgotsob has been organized this year as before, he said.

The organisers of the district hope to make the autumn Durgotsav a recurring spectacle in this family worship hall.

Visitors excited

The news of the grand scale Shikdar Bari Durgotob has spread joy among visitors and devotees. Visitors have started thronging to the Puja pandel, expressing their eagerness to witness the grandeur of the event. The festival has garnered a significant response, transcending barriers of caste, creed, and background.

Lakhs of devotees and visitors, both local and international, are flocking to Shikdarbari Puja Pandel during the Festival.

Visitors, including Subhash Das, Soumitra Majumdar, Anant Pal, Kalpana Rani Ghosh, and Anjali Rani Pal, shared their strategy of arriving early to avoid the inevitable crowds during the peak of the puja. The idols, as they said, are a sight to behold.

Niloy Kumar Bhadra, President of Bagerhat District Puja Celebration Parishad, hailed the arrangement of Durgotsav at Hakimpur Shikdarbari as unparalleled globally.

The Tradition of Shikdar Bari's Durga Puja

In 2011, Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar introduced the grand celebration of Durga Puja with 251 idols at his ancestral home, Hakimpur village of the Bagerhat Sadar upazila.

He wanted to raise society's awareness of the value of practicing sanatana dharma (traditional religion, or Hinduism) through the grand puja.

Since then, the number of idols of gods and goddesses has been increasing there every year.

In 2019, Durga Puja was organised with 801 idols of gods and goddesses on the Shikdar Bari Puja mandap.

The celebration became more vibrant and different every year to spread the festival among people of all religions.

Around autumn, with the fragrance of Shiuli in the air, millions of visitors and devotees from all over the country, regardless of caste and religion, flock to the spectacular Shikdar Bari's puja mandap.

The preparations for the celebration of Shikadar Bari Durga Puja ran almost throughout the year. The artisans started making idols six to seven months in advance with straw and clay. Idols were decorated with different colors and different types of ornaments, both local and foreign. Three months before the puja, the workers would be busy with decoration and lighting work.

Various gods and goddesses of Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga were arranged in this puja mandap as companions of Mahamaya Goddess Durga.

Eminent industrialist Liton Shikdar, son of Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar, was organising the festival with his own initiative.

Durga Puja and security measures

The religious festival began with Mahalaya on October 14 while the ceremonies will take place from October 20 to October 24.

This year, there will be 32,407 Puja mandaps across the country

Goddess Durga will come to the earth (Martyalok) riding an elephant (gaja) through the Maha Sashthi Puja this year

Security measures have been implemented by the district administration and police to ensure a festive and peaceful Shikdar Bari Durgotsob.

Liton Shikder said that, in addition to law enforcement protection, they have established their own security forces with volunteers, and approximately 100 CC cameras have been installed at various locations. Visitors are subjected to a security check upon entering the shrine, he added.

Bagerhat Superintendent of Police Abul Hasnat Khan and District Commissioner Moha. Khalid Hossain assured multiple levels of security arrangements to maintain a peaceful and festive atmosphere during Shikdar Bari Durgotsob.

In addition to Shikdar Bari, the Durga festival is being celebrated across the district with 652 puja mandaps organized in nine upazilas, including Bagerhat Sadar, Kachua, Morelganj, Sharankhola, Mongla, Rampal, Fakirhat, Mollahat, and Chitalmari.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun on Tuesday instructed the police officials to remain alert so that no one could spread rumors targeting the upcoming Durga Puja.

Besides, he also ordered intensified police patrolling across the country on the eve of the Puja.

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