The first phase of the three-day Biswa Ijtema began on the bank of the Turag river at Tongi in Gazipur amid participation of a large number of devotees from home and abroad.
Biswa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims after Hajj, formally began after Fajr prayer with ‘Aam Boyan’ (main sermon), reports our correspondent from the spot.
Meanwhile, three people who participated in the Ijtema died due to old age complications there yesterday, Harun-Ur-Rashid, superintendent of police in Gazipur, told our local correspondent.
The deceased were identified as Nurul Islam, 72, of Kurigram, Joynal Abedin, 72, of Gopalganj and Farid Uddin, 75, of Natore.
Law enforcers including Rapid Action Battalion were seen deployed to ensure security for the devotees in and around the area.
Apart from this, many closed circuit cameras were set up at different key points in the Ijtema area.
Several lakh devotees thronged the Ijtema ground since early yesterday from different parts of the country to offer Friday’s Juma prayers.
Tablighi Jamaat has been organising Biswa Ijtema, also called the World Muslims' Congregation, every year since 1946.
In 2011, the organisers split the congregation into two phases to deal with overcrowding, ensure better management and give security.
However, this year the presence of devotees is apparently lower than that of last year, our correspondent reports.
The first phase will end on Sunday and the second phase will start on 15th January and conclude on 17th January with Akheri Munajat. For the first time, the Ijtema will be held in four phases in two years.
People from 33 districts will take part in the first two phases this year, while those from the remaining 32 districts will participate in two more phases next year. But foreigners will be able to join in every phase.
People participating in the first phase joined from Dhaka, Sherpur, Narayanganj, Nilphamari, Sirajganj, Natore, Gaibandha, Laxmipur, Sylhet, Chittagong, Narail, Madaripur, Bhola, Magura, Patuakhali, Jhalkathi and Panchagarh districts.
In second phase, people from Dhaka, Jhenidah, Jamalpur, Faridpur, Netrakona, Narsingdi, Comilla, Kurigram, Rajshahi, Feni, Thakurgaon, Sunamganj, Bogra, Khulna, Chuadanga and Pirojpur will participate.