Dhakeshwari Temple

Dhakeshwari National Temple (Bengali: ঢাকেশ্বরী জাতীয় মন্দির Ðhakeshshori Jatio Mondir) is a famous Hindu temple in Dhaka, Bangladesh and is state-owned, giving it the distinction of Bangladesh's "National Temple". The name "Dhakeshwari" (ঢাকেশ্বরী Ðhakeshshori) means "Goddess of Dhaka". The temple is located southwest of the Salimullah Hall of Dhaka University. Since the destruction of Ramna Kali Mandir in 1971 by the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Dhakeshwari Temple has assumed status as the most important Hindu place of worship in Bangladesh.

History

The Dhakeshwari temple was built in the 12th century by Ballal Sen, a king of the Sena dynasty, and many say the name of the city was coined after this temple. The current style of architecture of the temple cannot be dated to that period because of numerous repairs, renovations and rebuilding in its long years of existence and its present condition does not clearly show any of its original architectural characteristics. It is considered an essential part of Dhaka's cultural heritage. Many researchers say that the temple is also one of the Shakti Peethas, where the jewel from the crown of the Goddess had fallen. Although there is not enough historical context in order to establish this as a fact, researchers were directed to this site while trying to locate the particular Shakti Peetha. Since ages, the temple has been held in great importance. The original 800-year old statue was destroyed during the War of 1971. The temple was further damaged during the riots of 1989/90.

Location and structure

The temple is located in Old Dhaka right behind the campus of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), on Orphanage Road near Bakshi Bazar area. There is a permanent altar outside the main temple premises. It hosts the yearly Puja (worship) of Goddess Durga.

Inside the main temple premises, there are four identical structures devoted to Lord Shiva. To the east of these is the main temple, which hosts the statue of the Goddess.

Declaration as National Temple of Bangladesh

In 1996, Dhakeshwari Temple was renamed Dhakeshwari Jatiya Mandir (National Temple) reflecting its position as the center of Hindu culture and worship in Bangladesh. This was the culmination of a major campaign by Bangladeshi Hindu groups who had been demanding official recognition for the primary Hindu place of worship following the declaration of Islam as the state religion in 1988. As a result, the Flag of Bangladesh is hoisted every morning outside the main temple premises, and it follows the National Flag Code rules such as rendering half-mast on nationally declared days of mourning.

As is the practice in other leading religious places of worship in Bangladesh, day-long prayers are common practice during important national holidays such as Independence Day, Language Martyrs' Day, Victory Day and birth and death anniversaries of popular leaders such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman.

Threats to temple security

The Dhakeshwari Temple was severely damaged during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and over half of the temple's buildings were destroyed. The main worship hall was taken over by the Pakistan Army and used as an ammunitions storage area. Several of the temple custodians were tortured and killed by the Army though most, including the Head Priest, fled to their ancestral villages and to India and therefore escaped death.

A significant portion of the temple land has been lost due to the Vested Property Act and confiscation by the Bangladesh Government, and the current premises are considerably lower than the historic reach of the property.

Religious and socio-cultural activities

Dhakeshwari Temple is a hub of socio-cultural as well as religious activity. Each year, the largest celebration of Durga Puja (the most important event in the Bengali Hindu calendar) in Dhaka is held at the National Temple, and a stream of dignitaries (such as the Bangladeshi President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Members of Parliament and media celebrities) come to felicitate the Bangladeshi Hindu community from the temple premises. Several thousand worshippers and onlookers (including Muslims) stream through the premises where they are offered prasad (food - usually rice and lentils). A Bijaya Sammelani (cultural program following Durga Puja) takes place in the adjoining parade ground a few days after Durga Puja is complete, and is also a major cultural event in the Dhaka calendar, regularly attracting some of the top performers from the Dhaka music and film industry.

One of the most important events of the year is the Janmashthami procession which starts from Dhakeshwari temple and then proceeds through the streets of Old Dhaka; this occurs on the day of the Lord Krishna's birthday, which is also a national holiday in Bangladesh and second only to Durga Puja in importance in the Bengali Hindu calendar. The procession dates back to 1902 but was stopped in 1948 following the establishment of Pakistan and communal disturbances in Dhaka. The procession was resumed in 1989.

Concerts and charity drives (such as flood relief) are also a regular fixture within the temple throughout the year. Each year, Dhakeshwari Temple hosts major blood drives and inoculation programs which are open to all residents of Dhaka city.

Building Activity

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