Wednesday, August 4

Kolkata: Local Puja extravaganza draws global audience

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If several Durga Pujas explored the theme of unity in diverse cultures and faiths, the dazzling immersion procession on Red Road on Friday brought people together from antipodal geographical locations, spreading from England to Entally, Los Angeles to Lake Town. As sun set over the Hooghly, cavalcades of floats started rolling down the road, with drummers playing in the background and the 72 participating clubs presenting their recitals.

The two main pavilions, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee, along with celebrities, VIPs and foreign delegates, sat and watched the show, replicated terra cotta temples of Bishnupur, keeping to the carnival theme of ‘Rangamaatir Bangla’. Massive ranks of seating and barriers were constructed along the route the cavalcades of floats took, starting from Fort William to the immersion ghat. Every float, escorted by a sergeant, made a brief stop in the middle of Red Road to present a short song-and-dance sequence, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Thousands stopped to watch, if not at the stands, then on television or social media. Those who had trooped to the carnival soon outnumbered the seating capacity of 15,000 at the stands. Those who could not find a chair positioned themselves on either side of the road till Eden Gardens, cheering every float that crossed them.

The presence of the many foreign delegates—members of the consular corps, tourists, students—reaffirmed how the immersion carnival has evolved from a novel concept to provide a final glimpse to the best Pujas of the year into a world-class spectacle, showcasing the state and it creativity. The brief narration in Bengali and English as every tableaux travelled down Red Road made it easier for everybody to understand the theme and the context. “The narration helped me understand the themes. The presentation replete with art and installations, the magnificent and detailed idols and the performances wowed me,” said Sally Taylor, a visitor from Australia.

Puja and Bengal are so closely associated that the two have become almost synonymous. The festivity not only boosts the state’s economy, but it also draws a large number of visitors to the city at this time of the area. Many attendees said they planned their trip to Kolkata around Puja. “I have heard a lot about Durga Puja from Indians in the US. I have also watched the celebrations on social media. So when I was coming to India I planned it in a manner so that I could be in Kolkata during Durga Puja. My friends helped me with the dates and local contacts and the must-visit pandals. I am very impressed with the carnival as it not only brings together the best of the Pujas but also celebrates different aspects of art, such as dance, fashion and music,” said Jaden Smith, visiting Kolkata from Los Angeles in the US.

“The Puja Carnival is fast becoming the benchmark for an extravaganza, other shows of such magnitude being measured against it. It is an intangible heritage of our state,” said Gargi Mukherjee of Tridhara Sammilani.

As the glittering ceremony came to an end, a sense of sadness was palpable. “This means a final goodbye to Durga Puja for this year. But all good things come to an end. The silver lining is that we must start preparing for next year’s Puja,” said Paresh Ghosh, who came to the show from Naktala.


Source: Times of India

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