The Durga Puja carnival will be back on Red Road on Saturday after a two-year break, forced by Covid, and some of the personnel working on preparations for the pageant reported an ever-before excitement and scramble for passes.
Ninety-four puja committees have been shortlisted to parade their idols and perform at the carnival. Several people The Telegraph spoke to said they were keen to see the carnival but did not know how to get a pass.
Unlike the last carnival in 2019, where spectators were allowed without passes, this year the event has been designed for an invitation-only audience.
Sources in the information and cultural affairs department said arrangements had been made for 20,000 guests but the demand for passes was far more than the number of passes distributed.
“We are flooded with requests for passes. This kind of excitement was missing the last time we organised the carnival,” said an official in the information and cultural affairs department.
A Bangladeshi national who had come to Kolkata to witness Durga Puja with her friends told this newspaper that she had stayed back just to watch the carnival.
“My friends — one from America and the other from New Zealand — did not want to leave the city without watching the carnival. But we really didn’t know where to get a pass from,” she said.
The three finally managed to get passes from a friend who had been invited to the event. Many said the inclusion of Kolkata’s Durga Puja on the Unesco’s list of “intangible cultural heritage” has added to the buzz.
Information and cultural affairs department officials said invitations had been sent to foreign delegates, consuls-general, senior bureaucrats and state ministers. Members of several puja committees said they had requested for passes but were denied citing “high demand”.
Each puja committee has been asked to bring 50 participants, including dhakis.
“The enthusiasm is very high this year. Many from our neighbourhood wanted to watch the parade from the gallery. We requested for some extra passes but couldn’t get any,” said a puja organiser from south Kolkata.
A senior IPS officer said the demand for passes this year was apparent from the number of requests he and his colleagues were getting. “We are getting requests even from families of former bureaucrats and government officials. We did not notice this kind of frenzy in the last few years,” the officer said.
The police said that if people turned up without a pass, they would be shifted to the Maidan or Kidderpore Road, a little away from the venue but within “sight range”.
“We have also put up giant screens at Bangabashi ground, opposite Ladies Golf Club off Lovers Lane, at Brigade Parade ground, at Sahid Minar Maidan (beside the George Telegraph tent) and near J and N Island (behind Rammohan statue),” an officer said.