Dussehra, a festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, is a heartwarming example of Hindu-Muslim unity in Bihar. In this vibrant celebration, it is the effigies of the demon king Ravana and his kin, consumed by flames at Gandhi Maidan, that Muslim artisans lovingly craft.
The legacy of crafting effigies dates back to Haji Mohammad Jamal, affectionately known as Hajji Chacha, from Gaya. He was the first to sculpt Ravana, Kumbhkaran, and Meghnath effigies for Dussehra. In 2001, his nephew Mohammad Ahmed took over this tradition. Notably, his team includes a couple of Hindu artisans, reinforcing the spirit of unity.
A dedicated group of 10 Muslim artists meticulously paints these effigies. On the festival day, Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar personally launches the arrows that ignite the towering effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna, and Meghnath.
Kamal Nopani, the chairman of the Patna Dussehra Committee, confirms that preparations for this grand celebration have been finalized. Prominent dignitaries, including the Governor, Chief Minister, and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, will grace the main event at Gandhi Maidan, similar to last year.
For Mohammad Ahmed, religion remains personal, while art showcases his skills. He reminisces about his involvement in the making of Ravana since his childhood.
Ahmed emphasizes, “Ravana’s actions were bad. People of every religion will have to stand together against evil. Only then will we be able to eradicate it.” He pridefully notes that Hindus and Muslims have warmly embraced and admired his craft. “We happily created Ravana. It is my ancestral profession. Politicians have built the wall of religion,” he remarks.
This year’s effigies are towering, with Ravana’s effigy reaching 70 feet in height, while Meghnath and Kumbhkaran stand tall at 65 feet each.
They painstakingly varnish and cover these figures with plastic to preserve their grandeur, adorning the puppets with firecrackers from Kolkata – using 20 bundles for Ravana and 15 bundles each for Meghnath and Kumbhakaran.
In Bihar, this annual celebration serves as a heartening reminder that art, culture, and unity can transcend religious boundaries, lighting up the festival of Dussehra with the spirit of harmony and togetherness.
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