Goddess Durga has many a Muslim devotee in this coastal district. Every year as Durga puja approaches, three Muslim leaders - Shaikh Jannat Hossain of Nurpur Road, Sk Kamruz Zuma and Naimuddin Hoda of Arad Bazaar - get ready to play their roles for a grand puja.
Hossain, the headman of the Muslim community at Nurpur Road in Balasore district, has been heading the community puja committee for the last several years now. As the Astami rituals are performed, he keeps fast and sits before the Goddess while Hindu priests chant ‘mantras’.
While Hossain is the secretary of Nurpur Road Master Mill puja committee, Zuma is the president of Arad Bazar puja committee. Going one step ahead, Hoda organises the puja at Odean Talkies square and is the president of Kalinga Durga puja committee.
“I keep fast during the puja because I have faith in Devi. Though I am a Muslim, I strongly believe God is one. I also lead an ‘Akhada’ team that performs at Mahavir temple in Makalpur on the Astami day,” Hossain said.
The glittering puja pandals in some areas of Balasore town are also joint efforts of Hindus and Muslims.
The fact that Islam forbids idolatry is no deterrent to the Muslims here who participate in this festival with the same level of enthusiasm and revelry as their Hindu brethren. During the immersion too, a large number of youths from the Muslim community shoulder the large idols and take part in colourful procession before the immersion ceremony.