In West Bengal, Ram Navami gets going on raths, provided by Muslims
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In West Bengal, Ram Navami gets going on raths, provided by Muslims

There is a distinct Muslim connect to the Ram Navami festivities in Kolkata that is undeniable.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2017 11:24 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Ram Navami,West Bengal,Kolkata
A decked up rath designed and decorated by Muslims for Ram Navami festivities, is seen in Rajabazar area in Kolkata.(Ravik Bhattachary/HT PHOTO)

As Ram Navami celebrations assume a grand scale for the first time in West Bengal, there is hectic activity in Kolkata’s Rajabazar area, known to be a Muslim-dominated one.

Men are busy tending horses, cleaning the seats of the phaetons, known locally as tangas, decking up horse carriages and converting them into raths (carriages), which will carry idols of Lord Rama for the Navami procession.

While political parties may squabble over the communal nature of the celebrations, being done by saffron organisations, there is a distinct Muslim connect to the festivities that is undeniable.

Over three dozen phaetons, all from the minority community, have been booked by the organisers.

The tangawalas in Rajabazar are happy as all their phaetons have been hired for the Ram Navami festivites. (Ravik Bhattachary/HT Photo)

“We have hired a horse-driven carriage from Rajabazar which is being converted to a rath. Ram Durbar, having Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman, will be on the decked-up rath,” said Niraj Agarwal, representative of Anjaniputra Sena, an organisation in Howrah.

“We are happy if our celebrations provide an opportunity for people of all religion to earn. We don’t care whether we are getting the Tanga from a Muslim or Hindu,” he said.

Anjaniputra Sena will take out the Ram Navami procession on April 9. They have also hired four additional horses from Rajabazar.

Ram Navami, which is celebrated with a lot of fanfare in UP and Bihar, is being organised on a massive scale in West Bengal, especially Kolkata, this time, thanks to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, which is pushing its agendas of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and consolidation of Hindus in Bengal, post the UP blitzkrieg.

For the Navami celebrations, Hindu groups and committees will take out processions, competing with each other, from April 5 in Kolkata and other parts of the state.

Meanwhile, the tangawalas in Rajabazar are happy. They have received orders for all their phaetons from Wednesday from Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24 Parganas.

“We have three tangas and six horses. They are booked for the upcoming days in different parts of Kolkata and outside,” said Mohammed Sajid, a tangawala.

During lean season, phaeton owners rent out at Rs 1,500 per trip. But since the demand is high, they are charging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000 for a trip.

The age-old tangawalas, whose numbers have dwindled over the years, are now seen only near Victoria Memorial at Maidan. They are also hired for marriage ceremonies.

There are nearly 32 phaetons that ply in and around the landmark Victoria Memorial, taking tourists on a joyride. Besides these, there are also 12 phaetons that come to Victoria zone every day from Rajabazaar, Ultadanga and Narkeldanga area for business. The tradition has been continuing before independence.

First Published: Apr 05, 2017 10:15 IST