Durga Puja is advancing, when all things look bright and beautiful. It is autumn, the season of blue and brightness. Though the sky of Shillong is always overcast with cloud but sometimes blue sky also peeps with golden sun rays bearing the message of autumn, and people feel the essence of puja everywhere! Right from Iewduh (Barabazar) to Police Bazar, Polo, Laban, Laitumkhrah, Rynjah everywhere, there is a special sensation of Puja marketing, particularly in the shops of garments, shoes and other luxury things. Puja marketing is something special and traditional to the Hindus. Though it is very expensive but at the same time a great pleasure and somehow sentimental. The businessmen and the customers equally awaits eagerly for the puja marketing.
The Durga Puja celebration in Shillong completed its glorious 124 years. During this long span, the puja came across many ups and downs, and arduous situations of Shillong. The first 51 years of the puja (1896-1946) was performed during British period, without any interference though the country was in bondage. At the very primary stage of the puja, the starters had to face severe problems due to transport inconvenience, proper water supply etc, but the administration had full support to the puja. During that time, the idols of the puja would be brought from Kolkata because there was no idol maker in Shillong. But the British Government helped with free transportation of the Idols from Gauhati to Shillong to facilitate the puja, and the British Chief-Commissioner of then Assam himself would visit puja, as courtesy.
After Independence, from 1947 – 1971, Shillong was the capital of Assam; and the puja was performed as usual without any problem other than natural calamities. In 1972, Meghalaya was born, and Shillong became the capital of Meghalaya. During that time, on the heart of the city only, 36 numbers of public puja was performed by the Non-Tribal Hindus of Shillong. Till 1978, the annual Durga Puja was performed very smoothly and peacefully with full co-operation from the government and the public. But since 1979, political insurgency in Meghalaya polluted the serene atmosphere of Shillong and affected the puja very destructively. The disturbance started during Kali Puja festival in 1979, connected with the immersion of ‘Lal Vila’ Puja (a family puja) of Laitumukhrah Beat House point. Despite all sincere efforts of the government, since 1979, almost every year it had been a recurring practice to disturb puja with political issues, and the people as a whole would be sufferer; because every now and then, curfew was imposed by the Government to control the situation. In October 1992, it reached to its climax, creating a great massacre. Curfew was imposed during Puja to control the situation of turmoil. It was a very dark critical time for Shillong, when the people of Shillong could not even think of performing puja in future!
The gravity of the situation prompted some of the thoughtful, wise citizens of Shillong to think for a solution of such unruly situation in the heart of the city during puja, which was no doubt a hurt to the religious sentiment of a particular community; and here is the inception of the Central Puja Committee Shillong; which today stands with great success and credibility. Of course, there was full support from the Government and the genuine local people of Shillong towards peaceful performances of Puja; but the contribution of the C.P.C is extra-ordinary.
The Central Puja Committee Shillong was formed in 1992-93, with Dr. Subrata Das as founder President, Sri Jayanta Lal Das as founder Secretary, with Sri Manas Choudhuri, B.N. Dutta, Koushik Bhattacharjee, Ardhendu Choudhury, B.B. Chettri, Mohit Lal Das, Hironmoy Dhar, Abu Das, Pradip Choudhury, Dhyan Sharma, Sontosh Saraf, Babla Murdani, K. J. Poudol and many other responsible personalities from different corners of the cosmopolitan city, as members and patrons of the committee.
The main object of the C.P.C was smooth performances of Durga Puja and other religious activities of the non-tribals in Shillong without any interference. First it was named as Central Puja Committee Shillong, and later on, in 1999, when the National Commission of Minorities New Delhi approved the C.P.C, it was named as, The Central Puja Committee Meghalaya, with head-quarters in Shillong.
-- ‘The Central Puja Committee, Meghalaya is an apex coordinating body of Puja Committees and Hindu Institutions of the State, acknowledged by the National Commission of Minorities & Govt. of Meghalaya. This organization is also totally committed to reinforce the secular fabric through regular engagement aimed at building harmony and amity among all sections of people, belonging to different faith and religion’. Says Naba Bhattacharjee, the President of C.P.C Meghalaya. (Ref:- Central Puja Committee – Ethics & Philosophy).
The contribution of the Central Puja Committee Meghalaya towards the different communities of the state deserves an extra-ordinary importance, credit and applause. It is a vital part of the society as well as of the government. The programmes of the Committee eg, ‘Get Together For Harmony’, which is held every year before puja to rejuvenate people with the tie of concord and harmony. The programme includes all religions meet, which goals at oneness of God and oneness of man. The C.P.C arranges Good will visit to the Puja Pandals by members from different communities of people which elevates communal harmony and peaceful co-existence. The C.P.C offers felicitations to the genuine personalities, irrespective of caste tribe or religion, to recognise their quality and credibility by offering, ‘Sarad Sanman’ every alternate year. The C.P.C also extends its generous hands towards the victims of natural calamities and other disasters with medicines and financial help. In addition to all these activities, the C.P.C has been involved with the recently formed, ‘Save Wah Umkhrah and Umshyrpi’ Task Force with full initiative.
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