The wavy waters of Icchamoti bring an unusual restlessness to the mind. Reality hit me when I realised that I was actually at a place that separates two different countries with similar culture, rituals and language. The river waters reverberated with the sound of innumerable dhaks and the country boats had a difficult time steering clear of each other’s bow. The Dashami immersion at Taki in North 24 Parganas is not only a traditional affair, over the years it has gradually become a great tourist attraction for Bengalis and other communities across West Bengal and Bangladesh. A wish of many years came true this year for me when I found an opportunity to visit Taki on Dashami morning and witness immersion of both the countries taking place simultaneously.
After a bus ride of almost two and half hours, from Science City, Kolkata, we reached Taki and set off on a boat ride on Icchamoti. The river was dotted with small boats tagged with Indian or Bangladeshi flags. The tradition of immersion in the Icchamoti dates back to almost 300 years. Although most of the river is under India’s jurisdiction today, traditionally immersion was not only a ritual but also an intermingling of people of both countries. We got to know that till 2009, idols from both banks of the river, Taki in India and Satkhira in Bangladesh, were immersed together. They were brought on boats to the middle of the river and immersed. People from both sides, from both countries would cross borders to meet and greet each other to exchange Bijoya greetings. However, this changed after unpleasant incidents in 2009.
Immersion is now a separate affair for both countries. No one is allowed to cross the unseen boundary line to come to the other side to immerse their idols. Neither can they wish each other Subho Bijoya. After almost a whole day spent on the Icchamoti, we did not get to see any immersion really happening. Local guides told us that the actual immersion takes place at night. On the way back home, I wondered how lines can be drawn on traditions that are so deeply ingrained in our minds. Lines have been drawn on political and administrative front, but the mutual feeling of brotherhood still persist in the hearts of the people here.