West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee urged people to make the September 1 rally as colourful as possible to mark the beginning of the one-month-long Durga Puja celebrations
She also increased the assistance from ₹50,000 to ₹60,000 which her government has been giving to the puja committees, waived taxes and increased the discount on electricity bills from 50% to 60%.
“On September 1, there will be a thanks-giving-rally to express our gratitude to the UNCESO which gave the Durga Puja a heritage tag. The puja celebrations will start with that rally and end with a carnival on October 8,” she said.
While a two-member team of UNCESO has accepted the government’s invitation to be present on September 1, a team of foreign delegates is expected to arrive in Kolkata on a three-day visit from September 21, to check out the preparations of the festival.
Durga Puja is the biggest festival of West Bengal. The celebrations were muted over the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Make the September 1 rally as colourful as possible. Use colourful banners and wear colourful clothes. Puja committee members participating in the rally will play flutes, conch shells, sing songs, dance and may even carry colourful umbrellas. Come up with innovative idea,” said the chief minister while adding that smaller rallies will be simultaneously organised in all the districts across the state.
The rally will start from near Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, in central Kolkata and come down to Rani Rashmoni Avenue covering a distance of around 4 km.
Thousands of people including school children, embassy officials, industrialists and puja committee members are expected to attend the programme. Banerjee will also participate. Schools and government offices are likely to close down early on that day.
Even though the festivity will start in September, the Durga Puja will be held in the first week of October and end with three days of immersion followed by a carnival on October 8 in Kolkata. The carnival could not be held for the last two years due to Covid-19. This year carnivals will also be organised in the districts on October 7. Government offices and schools will be closed from September 30 to October 10.
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 is worth ₹32,377 crore. Around 40,000 community pujas are registered across the state, out of which around 2,700 are held in Kolkata. Around 2,141 pujas are organised by women.