Boundaries of Belief

A Durga Puja celebration across the India-Bangladesh border

By Omkar Khandekar | 1 March 2018

Taki in West Bengal is a town of green paddies and greener ponds on the banks of the Ichamati river separating India and Bangladesh. Like the rest of the state, it sees enthusiastic Durga Puja celebrations every year. The streets are lit up in canopies of fairy lights, Bengali songs and Bollywood hits blare from loudspeakers, and pandals, or marquees, compete for who carries the tallest, glossiest pratimas—idolsof the goddess Durga.

But what distinguishes Taki from other border towns is a particular tradition on the final day of the Puja. As its residents gear up for the immersion of idols, so do its counterparts in Satkhira, a district across the border in Bangladesh. The inhabitants of both towns place the pratimas in their respective boats and sail up to border security boats floating in middle of the river, along the international boundary. With a dozen metres between them, the two groups of neighbours wave at each other, exchange greetings and—with deafening shouts of “Aschche bochor abar hobe!”–Until next year!–immerse the idols together. For a day, citizens of the two countries, divided by geopolitics, come together to celebrate a shared heritage.

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Omkar Khandekar is a journalist from Mumbai, and an alumnus of Cardiff University. His reporting from India, the Maldives and the United Kingdom has appeared in numerous publications, including The CaravanOpen and Scroll.



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