Festive fever gripped Kolkata on Sunday as revellers came out in hordes on Panchami.
If the first half of Sunday saw the rush of last-minute shoppers, the number of pandal-hoppers started swelling after sundown.
Some did both.
Abhiraj Sen, 32, who works with a private company in Hyderabad, arrived in his hometown for the Puja on Friday.
On Saturday, he was at Quest Mall in the afternoon.
“I bought new clothes for myself and my parents. Now, I will visit a couple of pujas in the Gariahat area before a night-long adda with friends,” said Sen, who lives in the Deshapriya Park area in south Kolkata.
South City Mall was packed throughout the day.
“The food and beverage outlets saw very good footfall. The rush of shoppers was also very much there,” said an official of the mall.
Sayan Sarkar, 36, went to South City Mall in the morning, thinking it would be relatively less crowded. He was mistaken.
“There was a long queue of cars at the entrance around 11.30am. Inside the mall, it was brimming with people. I stood behind at least 20 people at a cash counter in a store. All other counters had a similar queue,” said Sarkar, a Behala resident.
At Acropolis Mall, the footfall was steady since the early hours. “Apparel and footwear stores did brisk business. The restaurants were also busy,” said a mall official.
The big-ticket pujas in south Kolkata were not too crowded in the morning. But the footfall started growing as the day progressed.
The sky was not consistently bright but there was no rain and puja revellers made the most of it, undeterred by high humidity.
Around 4.30pm at Ekdalia Evergreen, scores of outstretched hands with cellphones focused on the pandal and the goddess inside.
The visitors were not allowed beyond 25 metres, in keeping with the high court guidelines.
At Tridhara, off Rashbehari Avenue, there was a steady stream of visitors around 5pm.
“We came today because the crowd will only go up from tomorrow,” said Sramana Mandal, 20, who had come with three friends.
They were buying ice cream from a stall outside the pandal.
“The college is shut now. We don’t get to meet often. This is happening after months,” said Mandal, who came from Barrackpore.
Puja organisers said they expected the crowd to only go north in the coming days.
Hawkers outside pandals said they pinned their hopes on the footfall.
“Last year, there was hardly any business. This year, things are looking better, if Saturday and Sunday are any indication,” said a man selling bhel puri near the Gariahat intersection.
At the crossing, the deployment of a contingent of cops and civic volunteers meant that traffic was reasonably smooth.
The civic volunteers used ropes to keep pedestrians back when the signal was green for traffic. Every time they lifted the ropes, all that was visible was a sea of black heads crossing the road.