Durga Puja: Kolkata organises mega rally to thank UNESCO for heritage tag

Updated on Sep 01, 2022 10:35 PM IST

According to a study commissioned by the state government in 2018, the economic value of the creative industries that crop up around the Durga Puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – is worth ₹32,377 crore.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee leads a procession to commemorate inscribing of 'Durga Puja in Kolkata' by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in Kolkata, Thursday, September 1, 2022. (PTI Photo)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee leads a procession to commemorate inscribing of 'Durga Puja in Kolkata' by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in Kolkata, Thursday, September 1, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The grand rally organised by the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal administration to thank UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for giving Durga Puja the heritage tag has drawn a pat on the back from the world agency.

“What a sight. The last time I met the chief minister around three months ago, she said she wanted to organize a big celebration and a big thank you to UNESCO. But I have to say I did not expect anything so big. Congratulations. I have personally not seen such enthusiasm centering around an inscription as I have seen around Durga Puja,” said Eric Falt, director and UNESCO representative to India, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

In December 2021, the biggest festival in West Bengal got a heritage tag with the UN agency inscribing ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ on the ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.

The West Bengal government on Thursday organised a rally led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee to thank UNESCO, which ended in a gala cultural festival. A two member-UNESCO team participated in the event.

“The rally marks the start of the month-long puja celebrations. UNESCO’s support will give a big boost to the puja festivity. A UNESCO team will be visiting the city again on September 24 to participate in pre-puja celebrations. The team will visit some of the puja pandals. From today, our festivities have begun one month in advance,” she said.

Also Read:Kolkata’s Durga Puja gets UNESCO heritage tag

More than 1,200 puja committees from across Kolkata and the adjoining cities of Howrah and Bidhannagar participated in the rally in the heart of the city. Participants dressed up in colorful dresses, sang, danced, blew conch shells and beat drums even as thousands gathered on the two sides of the road as Banerjee led the rally.

On the Red Road, where the rally culminated at a cultural program, dignitaries, including UNESCO were present. Thousands of people including school children, embassy officials, industrialists, puja committee members, cultural artists attended the program. Some schools had announced to close down early.

“We have many opportunities to work with West Bengal in celebrating the intangible cultural heritage of the state. We have collaborated with the MSME for a number of years now to provide support to around 50,000 artisans in West Bengal who practice different forms of intangible cultural heritage. Some of them feed into the Durga Puja. We are happy to work with you to promote this incredible heritage of India,” said Falt.

Around 40,000 community pujas are organised across the state every year. Of these, around 2,500 are held in Kolkata. Several organisations urged UNESCO to recognise the festival.

Durga Puja is the biggest festival in West Bengal. Celebrations were muted over the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but this year the festivities, in the first week of October, are expected to be all the more pumped up because of the UNESCO heritage tag.

According to a study commissioned by the state government in 2018, the economic value of the creative industries that crop up around the Durga Puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – is worth 32,377 crore.

“Durga Puja in many ways celebrates the best of intangible cultural heritage. People from all different backgrounds have come together to celebrate this festival and that’s what makes it unique,” said Falt.

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