Idols of the top 95 Durga Pujas in Kolkata were showcased at a grand carnival in the heart of the city on Saturday evening to toast the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage tag.The community puja committees took part in a colourful parade on Red Road, showcasing the brilliant craftsmanship which was on display during the five-day festival before an audience led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, representatives of UNESCO and diplomats of different countries.
Puja committees such as College Square, Sreebhumi Sporting Club and Singhi Park displayed their traditional idols, accompanied by beats of dhak and cultural performances.Crowd-pullers such as Suruchi Sangha, Chetla Agrani, Dumdum Park Tarun Dal and Behala Natun Dal showcased their theme-based idols along with artworks. All the 95 participating puja committees have received the state-sponsored ‘Biswa Bangla’ award.
The programme started at 4.30 pm and went on till 9.15 pm, because of which several major thoroughfares of the city were blocked, leading to road diversions and rush hour traffic pile-up.Every puja committee was given three minutes for cultural performances near the main dais where Banerjee was sitting along with her cabinet colleagues, top government officials and other dignitaries. Actors, singers and other eminent personalities of the city were also present at the programme.Banerjee interacted with the participants, and also shook a leg with some of them.
Each puja committee was allowed a maximum of three tableaux, accompanied by a team, comprising the organisers and artisans.Men, women and children in traditional Bengali attire were seen walking alongside their tableaux with ‘Thank You UNESCO’ placards.The carnival in Kolkata is being organised annually since 2016, except for the last two years because of the pandemic. However, more number of puja committees were invited to participate this time in view of the UNESCO honour.Such programmes were also organised in every district of the state on Friday.
The TMC government drew flak from the opposition for going ahead with the programme despite the deaths of eight people in a flash flood in the Mal river during immersion of idols on Bijaya Dashami.Besides, the government was also criticised after the police asked the SSC (School Service Commission) aspirants to vacate the spot near Red Road where they have protesting for nearly 600 days over the teacher recruitment scam, because of the programme.
Hitting back, the TMC said that the opposition CPI(M) and BJP were doing politics over the tragedy in Jalpiaguri district and the state’s biggest festival that has received international honour.”They are trying to generate dividends from a tragedy. The state is also handling the issue of SSC aspirants sympathetically, with all fairness and transparency,” TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.