Hyderabad: Exemplifying communal harmony are the Durga Puja committees and the communities of Hyderabad.
Several committees of the city have Muslims and Christians as lifetime members, who participate actively during the nine-day festivities.
While a few of them organise bhog or prasad, others help with different arrangements and also take part in the rituals.
“We named the association ‘Utsab’ because it means celebration and that is the spirit of Durga Puja,” said Anwar Ali, a lifetime member of Utsab Cultural Association (UCA) of Gachibowli. Talking about how the other communities started participating in the festivities, Ms Mallika, one of the members of UCA, said, “It was only after you asked that we enquired and got to know that Prashant and Sharmila, life-time members of the association, were Christians.”
Ms Sharmila shops for most of the Puja samagri (materials) for the festival, and to this Anwar adds,”"We have never ever thought about religion. We believe in celebrating together.”
“Anwar Bhai, Sharmila, Prashant and many have in fact been instrumental in the formation of UCA. We need Anwar Bhai more than anyone as he has been living in Hyderabad for over 30 years and knows where we can source anything from,” said Sayantani Chatterjee, a software professional.
The association comprises mostly software professionals and entrepreneurs. It is not just the UCA that boasts of members from other communities. Ms Mallika lists other associations and people of whom she has heard from acquaintances. The Hyderabad Charkaman Bengali Samiti has around 20 Muslims and people from other communities as permanent members.
“Depending on their income, each of these members contribute around Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 for the celebrations. Most of them constitute teams and help in distribution of food during the festival,” says Manish Neogi, executive member of HCBS.