With 50 days to go, Kolkata readies itself for Durga Puja celebrations
UNESCO’s heritage tag to the biggest festival in West Bengal has upped the excitement factor in the state ahead of the celebrations
With less than 50 days to go for Durga Puja, Kolkata is gearing up for a grand celebration this time around after a hiatus of two years owing to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
While artisans and idol makers are working overtime, puja committees are busing preparing for the festival.
Over the last two years, the festivity was muted with loads of restrictions imposed by the Calcutta high court due to the pandemic.
UNESCO’s heritage tag to the biggest festival in West Bengal has upped the excitement factor in the state ahead of the celebrations.
While a section of puja committees has increased their budget, artisans making idols said they have ample work.
“Even though there was no compromise on the puja, the festivity was muted over the last two years due to the pandemic. This time, however, the festival will be held with full colours. The UNESCO heritage tag has added to the gusto,” said Saswata Basu, general secretary of the Forum for Durgotsab, which represents around 500 pujas in Kolkata and Howrah.
Idol makers are happy that the puja festivities will help them earn money.
“The last two years have been very dull. But this time we are already full with orders. We have already taken some orders beyond our capacity. Over the last three to four weeks, we have stopped taking further orders,” said Kanchi Pal Dutta, an idol maker in Kolkata.
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 United Nations agency also accepted an invitation of the Mamata Banerjee-government to participate in pre-Durga Puja celebration scheduled on September 1. While the Durga Puja would be held in the first week of October, the celebration will take off much earlier, probably from around September 25, this time.
“Mamata Banerjee is likely to hold a meeting with puja committees on August 22 to lay down the plans for the coming festival and the extended festivity this year,” said a senior official of the state government.
Around 37,000 community pujas are organised across the state every year. Of these, around 2,500 are held in Kolkata. Several organisations had urged UNESCO to recognise the festival.
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.
“This year most committees are going for huge and larger than life idols. The average height of the idols which we are making is 10-12 feet and with the decorations on the idols it can go up to 15 – 16 feet,” said Mintu Pal, an artisan.
“The celebration was muted for the last two years. This year the enthusiasm is much more. The committees have increased their budgets and are going for huge idols. We have also got orders from outside the country, including those from the USA and Europe,” said Monti Pal, another idol maker.
At present, the state is registering less than 500 cases of Covid-19 every day.