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Pous Mela crowd braves cold

- Visitors from across India and world on first day

Santiniketan, Dec. 23: More than a lakh people braved sub-10 temperatures in Birbhum today and thronged into the Pous Mela grounds on the first day of the biggest event in Visva-Bharati’s cultural calendar.

Despite dense fog in the morning, a large number of visitors and ashramites also attended the traditional inaugural programme at Chatimtala of Santiniketan.

According to the Sriniketan weather office, the minimum temperature in the last 24 hours was 9.4 degrees Celsius. The temperature came down drastically from 5am today.

The 118th Pous Mela, a three-day fair, began at 5.30am with the Baitalik (singing songs of Tagore) at Gour Prangan, followed by Upasana (special prayer) at 7.30am.

After the prayer, vice-chancellor Sushanta Duttagupta and ashramites, teachers and employees of Visva-Bharati visited Udayan Griha, where Tagore used to live.

There, Duttagupta read out portions of Jibansmriti,

an autobiographical work mostly on Tagores’ childhood.

The inaugural programme and cultural programmes were then held on the Purbapally grounds — the main fair ground. Baul songs were performed. The fairground was teeming with people from across the country and the globe.

“I live in north Calcutta. This is the first time I have come to Pous Mela. I braved bitter cold to reach Santiniketan to participate in Baitalik. After that, I took a round of the fair. It is really nice, I felt excited,” said bank employee Sailen Mukherjee, 42.

According to a district intelligence officer, the footfall at the fair ground was about 40,000 till 2pm.

“The crowd is expected to increase late in the afternoon. It would be over a lakh. We hope the number of visitors would be higher than the other two days as today is a Sunday.”

A weather department official said the mercury levels could dip in the next couple of days.

“The temperature might come down further at night today because of cold winds and dense fog,” he said.

Many people were seen buying dokra and paat (drawings on pieces of cloth by village artisans) items. The stalls selling kantha stitch and other Santiniketan-made handicrafts were particularly crowded.

“Going by the footfall on the first day, we expect to do good business this year. I have sold items worth Rs 1,200 till 1.30pm,” said Manik Patua, who is selling drawings by village artisans from West Midnapore.

Young people, especially schoolchildren, thronged the NCC stall, where guns were on display. A senior NCC cadet explained to the visitors how the Light machine guns, SLRs and other guns worked.

“This is the first time we are displaying guns at the fair. We found that people have a lot of interest in guns,” said Utpal Das, a senior under-officer of the NCC posted in Bolpur.

He said the stall was set up to create interest among youths about jobs in the army. “We are also teaching students how to read a map with a compass,” Das said.

Hundreds of foreign visitors were seen on the fairground. Some of them bought local items, while a few others were engrossed in Baul songs.

“I have come from Ukraine with my wife and child. This is the first time I am visiting Pous Mela. The drawings by local artisans attracted me a lot,” said Igor Zhulev, 38, an electrical engineer.

Cherlotte Magnusson, 33, a folk artist from Switzerland, said: “I have come here to learn about Indian folk music .”