Gazi Moniruzzaman, Khulna
Authorities have completed all preparations for the three-day long Rash Mela due to start from today (November 21) at Dublarchar, one of the remotest areas of the country.
The festival is to be held at Alorkol of Dublarchar in the east division of the Sunderbans under Sharankhola upazila of Bagerhat, and scheduled to end on November 23.
During the festival, thousands of devotees from the country’s Hindu community throng the fairground to bathe in the Bay of Bengal before the full moon, known as Rash Purnima, as part of their pilgrimage programmes, said Kamal Uddin Ahmed, chairman of Dublarchar Fishermen Group and also convener of the fair organising committee.
Observing that the 200 year old Rash Mela is a festival celebrated every year with pomp and grandeur by the Hindus, he said, “The devotees also participate in various religious activities like performing kirton, puja of Lord Krishna and Radha, and holding religious discussions.” he added. Kamal said devotees believe that taking bath in the Bay during the festival wipes out all their sins.
He further said, “Over 50,000 people from all walks of life belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities from across the country as well as from India, Sri Lanka and Thailand are expected to attend the festival. Cultural functions will continue for full nights at the fairground.”
The pilgrims will have to pay Tk 50 per head for getting access to the venue of the festival.
“Besides, Tk 100 would also be charged from each of the trawlers per day as fare for carrying the people bound for Rash Mela, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of West division Md Bashirul-Al-Mamun. The devotees would enter the reserved Sundarbans through eight identified river routes for going the Dublarchar, the venue for three-day Rash Mela, he added.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard West Zone (Mongla) Commander captain Md Minarul Haque said that security forces and intelligence agencies will remain alert round-the-clock to keep a sharp watch on the movement of pilgrims and visitors at all vulnerable points of both east and west divisions of the Sundarbans, including beach and tourist zones during the Rash Mela. “All forest camps of both east and west divisions have been put on high alert to swing into action in case of any information about poaching of spotted deer and the felling of trees,” said Amir Hossain Chowdhury, conservator of Forest (Khulna Circle). Besides, security forces would also be on patrol duty over all river routes to contain the movement of criminals, he said.
It is alleged that a section of pilgrims go to Dublarchar every year in the guise of devotees, with an aim to hunt down animals including deer and tiger, and to cut forest trees, creating a huge threat to the wildlife of the Sundarbans.
Advocate Kudrat-e-Khuda, Khulna district coordinator of Jano-Uddog, urged the authorities concerned to search all water transports before allowing them to enter the Sundarbans. He also called for ensuring security and stopping the use of loudspeakers in the forest area for conservation of wildlife during the Rash Mela. Kudrat claimed that the Sundarbans have lost a number of its animal species and is losing its heritage due to some ever increasing man-made problems. A section of people are destroying the environment in the forest with the help of some dishonest forest officials, he alleged.