The pandals may not be complete but chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s inauguration of the ‘Vatican City’ and two other pujas has thrown the floodgates open.
The result: tens of thousands of people on the road and clogged arteries in several parts of the city, from VIP Road in the north to Gariahat in the south.
The special Puja deployment of police personnel starts on September 29.
The traffic situation for most of Friday suggested the police’s calendar didn’t match the festival rush.
As things seemed to be getting worse, deployment was stepped up around some of the Puja premises where selfie-seekers had already made a beeline.
Office commuters, shoppers, pandal-hoppers and people doing their chores were all out together, making the police’s job so much more difficult.
Traffic was worst hit in Gariahat, Rashbehari Avenue and Southern Avenue in the south, and Shyambazar, Ultadanga and VIP Road in the north.
The police attributed the slow traffic at the Gariahat crossing to the crowd of shoppers spilling on the thoroughfare.
The traffic on VIP Road was essentially because of the rush for the Sreebhumi Sporting Club pandal — modelled on the Vatican City — even if it was far from complete.
Traffic was also slow on the stretch of Gariahat Road (South) in front of the Dakshinapan shopping complex.
Shoppers in Gariahat around 3pm on Friday.Pradip Sanyal
In the north, in Lake Town, The Telegraph spotted people crowding outside an unfinished pandal and disrupting traffic. Multiple carpenters and decorators were seen working on pillars trying to finish the exterior on Friday evening.
The pandal had a “No Entry” sign for visitors and at least a dozen private guards were stationed to keep visitors away.
However, hundreds of people took turns in posing in front of the pandal to take selfies and groufies, ignoring the labourers at work.
A guard posted in front of the Sreebhumi pandal said he had been having a “tough time” telling people that the pandal would be open to all from 6pm on Monday.
Another guard said he had not been able to rest a while as he had been managing the traffic on Canal Road, on which the pandal is located.
Cars and motorcycles slowed down as they passed in front of the pandal.
As evening descended and the pandal lit up, more people poured in.
“I came early to avoid the rush. This is my daughter’s first Durga Puja. My mother is also leaving the city. So we thought to visit the pandal before it gets too crowded,” said Shaona Mukherjee, who came with her mother Rakhi Chatterjee and nine-month-old daughter.
A bunch of schoolchildren were among the visitors. They said they would visit the pandal “every day” till the immersion.
A senior officer in the Bidhannagar police said although the pandals would be opened for visitors from Monday, they were expecting a weekend crowd outside the puja premises. Police arrangements will be made accordingly, he said.
“Today, the arrangement at Sreebhumi is under the supervision of an inspector. On Saturday, an assistant commissioner will take charge, and gradually, as Durga Puja draws closer, more senior officers will be involved,” said Bidhannagar police commissioner Gaurav Sharma.
The FD Block puja, too, had a steady stream of visitors on Friday.
“I start pandal-hopping with the FD Block puja. On Friday, I decided to visit it with my parents,” said Anirban Chakraborty, a software professional who stays in GC Block.
Policemen posted outside the FD Block park in Salt Lake were seen directing cars to a designated parking spot and asking drivers who were trying to park right on the road that leads to the Labony island from the park to find slots elsewhere.
The rush outside Tallah Pratyay Durga Puja was relatively less compared to the other two pujas — Sreebhumi and FD Block. All three were inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday.