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China to court Durga this festive season

kolkata Updated: Sep 27, 2016 10:20 IST
Mou Chakraborty
Mou Chakraborty
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

For Puja organisers, who bring their unique ideas to shape

Though relations between the two countries were strained after China blocked India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it hasn’t stopped the Chinese consulate to explore utilising cultural ties to attract tourists from Bengal. (PIB photo)

in pandals across the city and vie for awards every year, there’s a brand new one to be handed out this festive season.

In a first, the Chinese consulate in Kolkata has planned to honour top 10 pujas in the city from this year. And, that’s not all. Two members of each of the nine Puja committees that make it to the honour’s list will win a seven-day, all-expenses-paid trip to China.

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The idea is to ride the Puja bandwagon and hard sell China as a tourism destination.

Ma Zhanwu, the Chinese consul general in Kolkata, said the Pujas are the best time to reach out to Kolkatans and pitch tourism.

“This is my second year in Kolkata. Last year, I went pandal-hopping and was awestruck by what I saw. The pandals represent the rich cultural heritage of Bengal and are among the best open-air displays of art that I have seen. This year marks the first time that we’re getting involved with Bengal’s biggest festival. Awarding some of the best pujas and promoting tourism at the same time will double the festive fun for us,” Zhanwu said.

The consulate has joined hands with Impact, a city-based NGO, to select the top 10 pujas in the city and honour them.

The dragon dance is easily the most prominent cultural activity recognised in Kolkata.

“We’ve already shortlisted 60 pandals. The organising members of nine pujas that make it to the final list will also win two tickets for a seven-day, all-expenses-paid trip to China. The tenth pandal in the list will be given a cash prize,” Zhanwu said.

The panel of judges, who are to pick the top 10, will not only comprise celebrities but also include senior IAS and IPS officers and the chairman and managing directors of some of the biggest companies in eastern India.

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“We’ll visit the pandals unannounced and judge the pujas not just on aesthetics, but also on such parameters as effective crowd control measures and eco-friendly initiatives taken by the organisers,” said Avijit Mazumdar, president of Impact and one of the most recognised faces of Kolkata’s corporate scenario.

The itinerary for the 18 winning members, two from each of the nine pandals that make it to the final list, is currently being finalised would include visits to such popular tourist hotspots as Hunan province in south-central China and Kunming, the capital and largest city of the Yunnan province in south-west China.

The Chinese consulate would put up stalls at select puja pandals and highlight such iconic landmarks as the Great Wall of China and the Temple of Heaven.

“We admit that in some places, language might be a handicap for visitors (from Kolkata), but hiring a local guide would solve the problem. We hope the organisers of some of the best pujas in the city will have a great time exploring China,” Zhanwu said.