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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Uncertainty over Durga puja in troubled Darjeeling this year

A few community puja committees have already decided to cancel the festivities.

kolkata Updated: Aug 10, 2017 12:31 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times
File picture of Durga puja in Raj Rajeswari Hall in Kurseong.
File picture of Durga puja in Raj Rajeswari Hall in Kurseong.(HT Photo)

The ongoing political turmoil in Darjeeling hills of West Bengal where an indefinite bandh has paralysed life for the past 57 days has also put Bengal’s biggest festival, Durga puja, into great uncertainty. With no road map for defusion of tension in sight, some community puja organisers in the hills have already decided to cancel the pujas.

The pujas will be held between September 26 and 30. The entire north Bengal hills are observing a shutdown called by a number of political parties of the hills that are fighting for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The agitators have vowed to continue the bandh till their demand for a separate state is sympathetically considered.

Read: Gorkhaland stir: Bengalis of Darjeeling feel alienated after burning of historic hall in Kurseong

A few community pujas are held in the hills out of which at least two are more than 100 years old.

The charred remains of Raj Rajeswari Hall in Kurseong.
The charred remains of Raj Rajeswari Hall in Kurseong. ( HT Photo )

Among the oldest pujas is the one organized at Raj Rajeswari Hall in Kurseong’s Down Hill Road. The British era heritage hall run by Bengali Association of Kurseong was set ablaze in the wee hour of July 19 by miscreants.

“This year the people of Kurseong will miss the puja,” said Arun Mohan Ghosh, secretary of Bengali Association of Kurseong. “The entire hall is totally gutted, we don’t have a place to organise puja,” he added. This venue used to be the main attraction in Kurseong during Dussera festival.

This community puja was once patronised by the families of Subhas Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore.

Read: Darjeeling unrest: 50 days on, no end to protest demanding Gorkhaland

The fate of the oldest puja organised at Nripendra Narayan Bengal Hindu Hall (NNBHH), Darjeeling is uncertain. Raju Biswas, one of secretaries of the puja committee said, “Printing of invitation cards should have been over by this time.”

“We are not sure whether we will be able to organise the puja this year. We will meet in 10 days and decide,” said Biswas. The puja completed its centenary in 2014.

In its centenary year, the puja in Kurseong was organised with considerable pomp. People from all castes and communities contributed to the kitty. More than half a km long stretch from Kurseong’s Dharmasala up to the Hall was decorated with lights and a huge pandal was erected at the venue.

Read: Darjeeling unrest: Mamata Banerjee’s stand will fuel Gorkhaland demand

The idols were carried by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in a toy train for immersion.

“Though the pujas were organsied by the Bengali Association, it was non Bengalis who participated in the pujas with all the enthusiasm and devotion,” said Ganesh Pradhan, a resident of Kurseong.

Even Muslims contributed for the puja in Darjeeling town. Last year’s budget was about Rs 4.5 lakh.

In Tindharia, 27 km from Siliguri, the organisers appeared determined to hold the puja that entered in its 96th year this year. The puja started at Brahma Mandir Prathamik Pathsala (popularly known as Bangla School) at Shankar Niwas, continues to be the main attraction during Dussera festival.

“No matter what the situation is, the puja would be organised. We cannot afford to snatch the little happiness people get every year during Durga puja,” said Chandra Bhadur Bhujel, a primary school teacher and executive committee member in last year’s organising committee in Tindharia.

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 12:31 IST

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