Fun, frolic and revelry ruled the city streets as lakhs of people came out on Sashti, the formal beginning of Durga Puja. Although the festivities had already began shortly after Mahalaya last Saturday, the crowd on Sashti evening broke all records of the previous evenings. The revellers took advantage of good weather and lined up in front of the puja marquees in large numbers.
Attired in new clothes, the pandal- hoppers crowded the pandals, gorged on delicious foods and threw themselves in the maddening rush of festive fervour. While Mahalaya marks the homecoming of goddess Durga with her children, the ‘bodhon’ of the goddess takes place on Sashti. “I have started pandalhopping from Chathurthi and already visited all the major Pujas of north and central Kolkata. I have started going to Puja pandals quite early this year as there were forecasts of rainfall during Puja days. I did not want to miss the occasion,” said Sanjoy Deb, a resident of Ultadanga, who is a keen pandal-hopper and was visiting Sreebhumi Sporting Club.
The city streets, packed with pandal-hoppers from north to south, witnessed traffic jams owing to the Puja rush as vehicular movement slowed down in many parts of the city either due to diversion or suspension on many roads. The surge of revellers had started from Tritiya as most of the big-ticket puja pandals were thrown open for public. Since the last three days, the crowds have continued to grow. Even though commuters faced trouble due to the restriction on plying of buses on Talla bridge as many routes have been diverted, there were no shortage of pandal-hoppers.
The traffic department has come up with meticulous planning to ensure the smooth movement of traffic during the Puja days and nights. Kolkata Police deployed 30,000 security personnel including policemen, civic volunteers and home guards. The Esplanade and New Market brimmed with the crowd as last minutes shoppers did not miss the chance of buying clothes. Meanwhile, MP Birla Cement in collaboration with Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy of Narendrapur and Braille artist Siddhant Shah took an initiative for the visually-impaired individuals, who cannot indulge in pandal hopping.
A one-day workshop on Durga Puja was held involving kids and the Braille artist. On the final day, the Braille artist asked kids to give shape to different Pujo ideas on the wall. State power and non-conventional energy minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay today flagged off several buses for senior citizens and differently- abled persons, so that they can take a tour to community Puja pandals. The event was organised by the Community Policing Wing of Kolkata Police.