Weekend brings early start to Puja

The early birds, the organisers feel, would ensure word of mouth publicity and greater footfall

By Sudeshna Banerjee in Calcutta
  • Published 14.10.18, 2:05 AM
  • Updated 15.10.18, 11:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
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A packed Mudiali puja pandal at 5.17pm on Saturday. Sanat Kr Sinha

Durga’s bodhon may still be three days away but try telling that to the pandal-hoppers out in numbers on the streets through Saturday, Chaturthi on the Puja calendar. Mudiali in the south to Mohd Ali Park in the north to Sreebhumi in the east, the scene was the same everywhere.

The morning — or rather the pre-dawn hours — did show the day. Paramita Pal, an event manager, was taken aback when she was caught in a traffic jam on Rashbehari Avenue near Deshapriya Park at 2am on her way home from work. “It was raining steadily. Yet people parked their cars wherever they could on the main road and simply strode off with umbrellas to any of the three big pujas nearby.”

The Deshapriya Park puja was supposed to open in the afternoon but was forced to open early on public demand. “By 11am, there were close to 5,000 people at the gates. Police asked us to open without bothering about a formal inauguration,” said Sudipta Kumar, the secretary of the puja. “We must have had over a lakh visitors today.”

“The crowd this evening equalled what we get on Sashthi,” said Arun Lal, the secretary of Mudiali Club. The puja was opened by the chief minister last Wednesday. “We had planned to close it and reopen on Friday. But people saw pictures in the media and landed up. We were forced to open the gates.”

Sreebhumi, too, had similar plans. “Our puja was inaugurated by the chief minister on October 5, but we wanted to open it to the public only on Chaturthi. However, we just did not get a chance to shut the pandal. We would have got beaten up if we tried,” said Dibyendu Kishor Goswami, the chief coordinator of the puja that is modelled on the Chittor fort as shown in the film Padmaavat.

Will the early surge mean a dip in numbers on Puja days? Sandip Chakraborty, general secretary of Badamtala Ashar Sangha, does not think so. “The crowd you see now is actually a bonus. These are people who would travel out of town on Sashthi or would not budge from home on the puja days to avoid the crowd. They have come out to make the most of the early openings of the pandals.”

Mitra Bose, 68, from Howrah awaitied her turn to enter the Badamtala pandal around 2pm on Saturday.

“My son is leaving on vacation on Wednesday. Since this is a weekend and his office is shut, he offered to take me pandal-hopping in a hired car. I would never have gone out otherwise during Puja,” said the lady, as son Debjit smiled.

The Sreebhumi puja will stay open for a record 17 days this year. “Jotodin thakur rakhbo totodin bhir hobe (It will remain crowded for as long as we keep the idol),” said Goswami.

The early birds, the organisers feel, would ensure word of mouth publicity and greater footfall. “I heard so many visitors calling up friends to say Mudiali is a must-visit or planning to return with family,” Lal smiled.