Gram Devata

Gram Devata (village deity) a remnant of the self-subsistent village of Hindu Bengal. Every village had a deity to protect the village from calamities of all sorts. However, the Gram Devata was not just a single deity, but varied immensely from village to village, and from area to area. The forms of worship associated with the deity also were not always the same. Thus shitala, the small-pox goddess, was called upon to fight small pox. Along with Uladevi, who was prayed to during times of cholera, Sitala was the commonest deity to Bangladesh villages until the mid-twentieth century.

Among other symbols of the Gram Devata were snakes, ghosts, tigers, and owls. There were not many priestly rituals for worshipping the Gram Devata. Until the end of the nineteenth century, all village people, irrespective of religion and caste, used to participate in the worship of the Gram Devata. There was no fixed time and place for its worship. The Gram Devata was invoked whenever the village was visited by cholera, small pox, or any other epidemic and pestilence. The Gram Devata was also worshipped when the village had a good harvest. With the spread of education, the growth of modern communication, and greater control of traditional diseases and epidemics, the Gram Devata has now lost its stronghold in the village. [Sirajul Islam]