With a population of about 17 million, Dhaka is the largest Bengali-speaking city on the planet. It came into prominence when the Mughals invaded Bengal in the 16th century. The new rulers moved the political centre from the historical capital of Gaur – where the Bengal Sultanate operated from – to Dhaka, looking to use the city as a base to quell numerous rebellions in the eastern half of the new province.

However, the history of Dhaka stretches further into history. Legend has it that the Dhakeshwari Durga temple was founded by the Sena rulers of Bengal in the 11th century. Now squarely in the heart of bustling Dhaka, it was earlier located in the thick Bengal jungle outside the city – hence the temple was covered, or “dhaka” in Bengali, by the forest canopy, which gave the deity her name, Dhakeshwari. Dhakeshwari, in turn, gave the city – now the capital of Bangladesh – its name.

A trip through Dhaka on Durga Pujo will remind one of the Kolkata of the past. The pandals are small and basic. Religion is a far more important part of the festival than it is in Kolkata. There is significantly less money in the Dhaka festivities – with no corporate sponsorships, all money is raised through neighbourhood chanda or donations.

Devotees prepare to immerse an idol of goddess Durga in the Burigonga river in Dhaka on the last day of Durga Pujo in 2016. (Credit: Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
A woman cuts through the crowd after Kumari Pujo at the Ramakrishna Mission Pujo Mandap in Dhaka on Asthami. (Credit: Mumit M)
A 71-foot Durga idol in Noakhali in 2016 as a tribute to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. (Credit: Dhaka Tribune)
Twin sisters Mohini Mondal Tapur (left) and Sohini Mandal Tupur pose for a photograph during Ashtami at the Barodeshwari Pujo Mandap at Rajarbagh Kalibari. They participated in the Kumari Pujo along with their mother Rinku Mandal Pakhi. (Credit: Mumit M)
A father helps his child ring the bell at the entrance of Dhakeshwari temple during Durga Pujo. (Credit: Mumit M)
Jamila Khatun prays to Durga at the Dhakeshwari temple. The Muslim woman has taken a vow to attend the festivals of every religion in Bangladesh. She visits Dhakeshwari every year during Durga and Kali pujo. (Credit: Mumit M)
Rain on Ashtami does not stop Dhaka residents from pandal-hopping. Here people attend the Shondhy Pujo, or evening prayers, at the Dhanmondi Pujo Mandap in Kalabagan. (Credit: Mumit M)
Women perform Sondhya Pujo at Radhika Mohan Basak Lane in Old Dhaka. (Credit: Mumit M)
Lighting diyas at Radhika Mohan Basak Lane. (Credit: Mumit M)
Nimai Avatar Das sells pujo paraphernalia on Durga Pujo at Rakhal Chandra Basak Lane in Old Dhaka. (Credit: Mumit M)
Children set off fireworks at Shankhari Bazar, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Old Dhaka. (Credit: Mumit M)
A priest sacrifices a gourd at Shankhari Bazar in Old Dhaka. (Credit: Mumit M)
Devotees collect arghya, or holy water, after washing the feet of a priest at Durga Bari Puja Mandap in Shankhari Bazar. (Credit: Mumit M)