Dhakeshwari – A Symbol of Hinduism in Bangladesh
The state-owned Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka is considered to be the most important Hindu place of worship in Bangladesh. Situated just southwest of Dhaka University’s Salimullah Hall, Dhakeshwari stands behind a boundary wall with its entrance framed by an ornate gateway.
Inside the main temple premises are four small identical temples situated from east to west. Each temple is built on a high base with steps to the open entrances on each side of the temples, except the north-facing side. The dome-like roofs of each temple are constructed with six tiers topped with lotus and kalasa finials. Inside each temple there is a Shiva linga – a symbol for the worship of the Hindu god Shiva.
To the east of these four small temples is the main Dhakeshwari temple with its marble altar for worship offerings. The main room of the temple contains the statue of the ten-armed goddess Durga and the four-armed god Vasudeva. The two side-rooms each contain a Shiva linga. Worship of the goddess Durga, known as Durga Puja, takes place at this temple on an annual basis. This is the most important event in the Bengali Hindu calendar and a number of dignitaries, often including the President, Prime Minister and Members of Parliament, attend as a symbol of respect for the Hindu community in Bangladesh. Thousands of worshippers, along with interested onlookers, visit Dhakeshwari during Durga Puja. As part of the celebrations, a cultural program takes place a few days later in the adjoining parade ground. This is an important cultural event for Dhaka’s citizens and often attracts renowned personalities from the Dhaka film and music industry.
The name Dhakeshwari means “Goddess of Dhaka” and it is believed by many that the city was named in honor of the temple, whereas others believe the temple was named after the city. Popular legend has it that the temple was built by King Ballal Sen of the Sena dynasty in the 12th century, but based on architectural styles, researchers do not necessarily agree with this and as yet, no consensus has been reached on the temple’s origin.
Although Dhakeshwari is a Hindu temple, it is open to all residents of Dhaka city and is often the venue for concerts and disaster relief charity drives, as well as inoculation programs. Irrespective of its origins and the many repairs and renovations that have taken place over the years, there is no doubt that Dhakeshwari is a well-respected part of Dhaka’s cultural heritage.