The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Festival of lights, life & laughter

Though isolated rains were reported in all the six districts of north Bengal on Sunday, the inclement weather could hardly dampen the spirit of the pandal hoppers on Nabami — the third day of the Sarodotsav.

Clad in fashionable apparel and glittering accessories, people continued to flock the pandals to check out the idols that they had not managed to get a glimpse of in their nightlong recce on Ashtami.

Last night or Ashtami saw thousands of people at the puja pandals in Siliguri as well as in other towns like Malda, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Balurghat and Raiganj. People hurried in rickshaws, two and four-wheelers to get near the pandals. It was a test of patience as hundreds queued up to get a view of the artwork in the different pandals and the deities. Some of them, however, almost covered the entire town on foot, with only fruit juice for company.

“We had never thought of managing so many people. Most of our members are working throughout the night and going to bed in the morning,” said Manas Sen Choudhury, the general secretary of Central Colony Durga Puja Committee of New Jalpaiguri. “We think the same rush will continue even on Nabami night.”

Visitors, too, expressed that the “night rush” is higher this year. “Even at 2 pm, it is difficult to bring out the car. The traffic congestion is huge and so is the number of pedestrians,” said Ishita Bhattacharya of Siliguri.

In Jalpaiguri, clubs like ABPC, Raikatpara, Pandapara Sarbojonin and Pandapara Seshbati were massive crowd-pullers. Similar is the situation in Alipurduar, where people had chalked out their plans for Ashtami and Nabami nights earlier.

“We found clubs like White House and Stationpara to be the most crowded pandals in town,” said Sangita Das, a resident of Alipurduar.

Old towns like Cooch Behar were brimming with excitement too. Long queues winded its way to pandals like Azad Hind Sangha at Mathabhanga and Boardingpara Sarbojonin in Dinhata in Cooch Behar district. Nobody seemed to mind the pace at which the queues moved, sometime taking hours to reach the entrance to a pandal. “Such a large assembly is beyond our imagination. We had visitors from every corner of the district and even from some parts of Jalpaiguri and lower Assam,” Ujjal Acharya, a resident said.

In Malda, clubs like Sukanta Smriti Sangha and Kalitala were huge crowd-pullers. “The pandals have left me spellbound. I was impressed with the liveliness and energy of the people, who trekked the entire night to see the pandals,” said Rakesh Mishra, the divisional manager of Eastern Railway’s Malda division, who himself went on a nightlong recce on Saturday.

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