Bangladesh: Christ becomes new face of an ancient god

Garo dancers

Garo dancers

Thousands of indigenous Garo Catholics gathered to celebrate their annual post-harvest season in Dhaka and northeastern Tangail, Bangladesh in Friday. About 5,000 Garos gathered during centuries-old Wangala celebrations, at both the Church-run Bottomley Homes Girls’ school of Tejgaon, in central Dhaka and Corpus Christi parish in Jalchatra, northeastern Tangail covered by Mymensingh diocese, to thank and praise Christ, who they now recognize as their rediscovered ancient god.

“Wangala helps us to get back to our roots. Our ancestors thanked the ancient god for good crops and blessings,” Ratan Hagidak, 38, a Garo Catholic told

The Garos used to worship natural powers in the past and Wangala was a thanksgiving festival to honor the sun-god Misi Saljong who is also the god of fertility. It used to be celebrated between September-November, marking the end of the agricultural year.

It was a social event carried out for a number of days in the villages, with eating, drinking and merrymaking. Men and women in traditional costumes danced to the beat of the drums, buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The highlight was when 300 dancers and 100 drums spread out across the field in celebration.

However, when Garo people embraced Christianity about 100 years ago in Bangladesh, the festivity was merged into inculturated liturgical celebration and shortened to one day.

“The Church appreciates inculturation and…welcomes traditions that are centered in faith of God,” said Father Patrick Gomes, Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and Prayer secretary.

“Once we offered thanksgiving to Misi Saljong, but now we do the same to Christ the King,” Sujana Chisim, a Garo university student, said.

The festival in Dhaka was organized by the Dhaka Wangala 2010 Organizing Committee and attended by Abdul Hamid, national parliament speaker advocate, Promod Mankin, Catholic state minister for cultural affairs and members of the parliament.

It was marked by an ecumenical prayer, offering of symbolic harvest sacrifice of 13 Garo clans to Nokma (headman) and cultural functions.

Meanwhile in Tangail, James F. Moriarty, US ambassador to Bangladesh, and Abdur Razzak, Bangladesh Food and Disaster Management minister, joined the event organized by the Achik Michik Society (AMS), a women organization.

In Bangladesh, there are 140,000 Garos. Ninety-nine percent are Christians with 85,000 being Catholics, according to Caritas Mymensingh regional director.

Source: UCAN

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