A carnival to herald a carnival threatens to paralyse traffic in Kolkata on September 1. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that Durga Puja celebrations will start on September 1 this year with a “thank you” to Unesco for conferring on Kolkata’s biggest festival the status of “Intangible cultural heritage”.
She urged offices and schools to close early that day. A rally will start from Jorasanko Thakurbari in north Kolkata and end on Rani Rashmoni Avenue in the city’s central part on September 1 afternoon.
“We will meet at Jorasanko and march towards RR Avenue near Dharmatala and Durga Puja celebrations will start on September 1,” the chief minister announced at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Monday, during her annual co-ordination meeting with puja organisers and various agencies involved in making the festivities safe and enjoyable.
“Eta Unesco-ke dhanyabad dewar jonyyo michhil. Ae michhil rajnoitik karon-e noy. Ae michhil gharer Ma-ke baran karar jonyo (This rally is to thank Unesco. This rally is not for a political reason. This is to welcome our Mother home),” she said.
The chief minister said people who work in offices should leave their workplace by 1pm and join the rally. She did not specify whether she expected private companies to follow that schedule as well.
“Ekjan, dujan aasley hobey na. Sabai ke aastey hobey (One or two persons coming will not do. All have to join),” she said.
She said schools, too, could be over by noon so that children could return home before the rally starts. As many as 10,000 students will be invited to witness the event.
“We will be gone one day, but they (the children) will be here. They will have to retain this legacy. They will learn from you (the puja organisers),” the chief minister said. Mamata said a “big team from abroad” would be in the city on September 21, 22 and 23 to see Durga Puja preparations in Bengal.
A host of competitions will be organised across the state during the puja, for which the organising committees should gear up from now. Clubs are free to bring participants for the rally, she said.
“Keu jodi chai dhol bajate bajate aasben, aastei paren. Kono club jodi chai banshi bajate bajate aasben, aaste paren (If someone wants to come and play drums, they are free to do so. If a club feels their members will play the flute, they can do that, too).”
“Colourful flags, colourful clothes, colourful umbrellas, make it a colourful programme,” the chief minister said.
The venue on Rani Rashmoni Avenue can seat 15,000- 20,000 people. All registered Durga Puja committees will get Rs 60,000 from the government and a 60 per cent concession on their electricity bill.
Last year, the clubs had got Rs 50,000 and a 50 per cent discount on the power bill. At present, there are around 40,090 registered Durga Puja committees in the state that are eligible for the grant, said a senior official of the state home department.
Of these, 2,700 are in the Kolkata police area.
The chief minister did not mention any Covid-related curbs, which were in place in the last two years’ Puja.
Chief secretary H.K. Diwedi, who also spoke at the event, said the Puja celebrations had been hampered in the last two years because of Covid, but this year the festival would be celebrated at its best.