Langalband a Hindu holy place situated on the bank of old brahmaputra is close to Dhaka-Chittagong highway, 20 kilometres to the southeast of Dhaka city. Every year on the 8th day of lunar fortnight in the Bengali month of Chaitra, thousands of Hindu devotees from home and abroad assemble there for Astami snan, a holy bath in the river. They believe that this bath will please Brahma and they will be relieved of their sins and distresses.
To facilitate bathing for the devotees, benevolent persons built a number of bathing ghats. There are now 13 such ghats and these are Premtala ghat, Annapurna ghat, Raj ghat, Baradeswari ghat, Gandhi ghat, Joykali ghat, Pathankali ghat, Srirampur ghat, Kalibari ghat, Kalidah ghat, Shankar ghat, Shikhri ghat and Rakshyakali ghat. At Langalbanda there are 10 temples and several asrams (hermitages).
As the holy river washes the place unceasingly, unending streams of people visit the place round the year in seeking blessings of Brahma. The 2-kilometre long holy site of Langalband witnesses devotees of all ages. A fair is also arranged on the occasion of the holy festival for 3-4 days. People come to the fair to buy articles of arts and crafts.
Most local people believe that the blessings of all the holy places of the world are pooled in the waters of the Brahmaputra on the auspicious day of Chaitra and by touching the water a believer becomes free of all sins and attains eternal salvation. There is a long story about how Langalband became a holy place. A legend goes that once there lived a great ascetic or mahamuni named Jamadagni. He had a beautiful wife by the name of Renuka, who came from a royal family. They had 5 sons and the youngest was named Parashuram. The family lived a simple life in the hermitage and Renuka almost forgot the luxuries of life she led in the house of her parents. One day the king of Martikabartya passed by the cottage of the Muni while on his way to hunt deer with his retinue. They were happy and gay. This reminded Renuka of her life before her marriage with Jamadagni and she started weeping. Muni Jamadagni was furious to see that his wife, a woman of 5 children living with an ascetic was so eager for enjoyment and luxury. He at once ordered his sons to kill their mother. When all of them refused to comply, he asked Parashuram to do it. Parashuram then took an axe and killed his mother with the blow of it. Although he did it by an order of his father, it was a sin and a punishment, the axe got stuck to his hands so firmly that nothing could release it. Jamadagni then asked him to visit different holy places and take bath in their waters to get rid of the curse.
At the same time, Jamadagni started the search for the holy waters for his son. He came to know of the greatness of god Brahmaputra who was then hiding in the himalayas in the form of a lake. He moved around the Himalayas for long but could not find Brahmaputra. Finally, he could see it at the bottom of the Himalayas. He became extremely happy and prayed for his sin to be washed in its water. As soon as Parashuram jumped into the lake, the axe separated from his hand. This is how he could atone for his sin of matricide. Parashuram at once decided to bring the holy water of the Brahmaputra to the plains for the good of the common people. He attached his axe to a langal (plough) and dug a canal. He brought the water of 'Lake Brahmaputra' down a long way through the hills and valleys and stopped at Langalband completely exhausted. There he stopped ploughing the land. Since then the Brahmaputra began flowing along the canal dug by him. And this is how the place was named Langalband and turned into one of the holiest places for the Hindus.
This is, however, not the end of the story. From here Parashuram began visiting the different holy places around the world to propagate the supernatural power and greatness of Brahmaputra. Close to Langalband was flowing one of the most beautiful rivers of Bangladesh shitalakshya. When god Brahmaputra came to know of the beauty and youthfulness of Shitalakshya, he with all his force rushed forward. But when Shitalakshya saw the frightening face of mighty Brahmaputra she covered herself in the garb of an old lady and called herself buriganga. Brahmaputra was shocked at the ugly sight of Shitalakshya and in a lightning move removed her garb only to be charmed by the beauty of Shitalakshya. It was here that the two met in a confluence and their combined stream flowed down.
But when Parashuram returned at the end of his journey, he was shocked to see that the world's greatest and purest river brought down by him for human welfare confluenced with Shitalakshya. He cursed both Brahmaputra and Shitalakshya. Brahmaputra then reminded Parshuram of the good that he had done him and asked for forgiveness. Parashuram felt pity for him and said 'O Brahmaputra, I wished to raise you to the status of the world's holiest of rivers so that the human beings could dip into your blessed water to wash their sins away. But from now on you will lose your supernatural power to wash away the sins any time of the year. However, there will be only one day in a year when you will be holy and can exercise the supernatural power to absolve sins. That day will be the 8th lunar day of Chaitra'.
This is how holy bath in Brahmaputra has been taking place on this auspicious day every year at Langalband. [Mofazzal Hossain]