History and Religion of Ishwaripur

Located on the banks of the Ichamati River, the historic village of Ishwaripur in Bangladesh is renowned for its religious sites, including the triangular-shaped Chanda Bhairab Temple, the Tenga Mosque with its five elegant domes, as well as a 16th century Hammamkhana built by the King of Jessore, Maharaja Pratapaditya. Moreover, the first Catholic Church of Bengal was built in the village at the end of the 16th century by Portuguese soldiers under the rule of the Hindu king.

Upon the fall of Maharaja Pratapaditya, the soldiers, as well as many of the civilians in the village moved away. At that time there were places of worship representing each of the major faiths – the Muslim Tenga Mosque, the Hindu Kali Temple and the Catholic Church – and it appears that it was religion, and these places of worship, that attracted people back to the village. At last count there were around 5,000 people living in the village, of which the majority are Muslim, with the second largest group being Hindu and the remaining members of the population consists of Christians, Buddhists and other beliefs.

The Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple in Ishwaripur village is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali and is considered to be one of the fifty-one Pithas (places of worship) of Sati (Durga), representing the palm of Sati’s hand when she fell during Shiva’s Rudra Tandava – an epic tale depicting the violent side of Shiva’s nature as the destroyer of the universe he created. According to legend, a general of the Maharaja Pratapaditya’s army was attracted to the undergrowth by a beam of light, and upon closer inspection found that the light was emanating from a piece of stone in the shape of a human palm. The temple was built on the site of this discovery and named Jeshoreshwari, meaning the Goddess of Jessore, the district where the village is located. The temple is an important pilgrimage site, with Hindus traveling from far and wide to worship there.

The Ichamati River flowing through India and Bangladesh forms a natural boundary between the two countries. The river also plays an important role in Hindu religious rituals, especially in the annual Durga Puja, celebrating the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga (Sati). The final day of the celebration sees worshippers from both India and Bangladesh mixing freely as they take to the river in decorated boats and immerse their idols on the only day of the year where religious ritual outweighs the otherwise strict border controls between the two countries.