The British-era hall in Kurseong, which is the venue of the grand Durga Puja in the hill town, has been restored in the nick of time after it was set ablaze during the Gorkhaland agitation last year. The century-old Puja is back after a year’s gap after the state restored a major part of Raj Rajeswari Hall built in 1930.
The idol has arrived and the organisers are busy decorating and planning the activities to be held during the festival. “The Durga Puja started a hundred years ago. In 1930, when the hall was built, the Puja was shifted there. The fire last year had erased a slice of history. We had lost all hope of getting our hall back. We are thankful to the state for showing urgency in completing the restoration. This is a sort of home coming for all of us,” said Chandan Karmakar, trustee member of the Raj Rajeswari Hall.
The members of the Bengali Association in Kurseong, who organise the Puja, are now racing against time to conclude the preparations. “We received the hall only a few days ago. Many families have left thinking we won’t be having the Puja this year too. As a result, we are left with only 50 families here,” said Karmakar.
Raj Rajeswari Hall, situated on Dow Hill Road in Kurseong and a favourite venue to celebrate both Bengali and Nepali festivals, remained untouched during the 1986 Gorkhaland agitation, even though Kurseong was hit by violence. The awe-inspiring hall was built by Ray Bahadur Sashi Bhushan Dey in memory of his late wife Raj Rajeswari Devi. Since then, the hall has been the epicentre of all cultural activities in the tourist town.
“Last year’s fire gutted the entire roof and the interiors were affected too. We decided not to have the Puja there last year as the place was a mess. The state has restored the hall without tinkering with the heritage structure. The rest of the work will be completed after Puja,” said Sujit Mukherjee, a member of the association.
Source: Times of India