The countdown to Durga Puja, the biggest festival for Bengalis is on its last lap. With puja organizers getting ready to enthrall us and people rushing for the last-minute shopping spree, Kolkata comes to life with the spirit of Puja and injects an elixir of life into the weary souls. To make the festival even more special the Tourism department of the West Bengal government has arranged special Puja tourism packages.
Experience the magic of Mahalaya
For a majority of the people, “Puja tourism” begins and ends with pandal hopping on the four major days – Saptami, Ashtami, Nabami and Dashami. But the state government has devised plans by which people can now experience the rituals on the dawn of Mahalaya. Boats along with priests will be arranged for people who want to offer tarpan, a homage paid to the ancestors on the auspicious day, or just want to enjoy a river-ride for the fun of it. The package has been priced at Rs 1250, although the experience promises to be priceless. The entourage will also head towards Kumartuli where people can witness the Chokkhudan ceremony, where artisans draw the eyes on the idols.
Durga Puja Road Shows
In an attempt to draw more tourists to the state, The Department of Tourism, West Bengal Government recently organised multi city raodshow including Hyderabad, Ahemdabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Delhi. The West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation has come up with 17 puja packages in the road show.
The roadshow in Delhi was organized in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The raodshow in Delhi was inaugurated by Krishnendu N Choudhury, Minister-in-Charge of Tourism, West Bengal in the presence of various dignitaries; travel trade of Delhi and tour operators and hoteliers of West Bengal were also present.
Apart from highlighting the latest initiatives taken by the department as well as tourism attractions of the state, the roadshow focused on the forthcoming Durga Puja Carnival, the biggest socio-cultural festival in West Bengal. The Department also dealt separately with investment opportunities in the tourism sector inviting local investors at the road show and explaining to them the opportunities that the state offers.
“The tourism sector in the state has been given high priority. The government has increased the budget from Rs 36 crores to Rs 120 crores in last 2 years. The Department of Tourism has started marketing and promotional initiatives in domestic and overseas markets,” the Minister said.
Promoting Bengali culture during Puja
Bengal is the land of varied folk art - dance, music, painting and handicrafts essaying the flavor of every region or district. To regain the popularity that has ebbed over time and to make the younger generation aware of Bengal’s traditional culture, handicrafts of Bengal will be showcased in 25 selected Durga Puja pandals across Kolkata.
This will promote the indigenous traditional art of Bengal to all the people, even foreign tourists and tourists from other states. State Tourism department is taking the initiative. Cultural programmes like Chhau and Jhumur dance will be conducted. Popular Folk singers from rural Bengal will enthrall the audiences with their earthly tunes, from Bhatiali to Baul. Painters and handicraft artists will also be there.
To help foreign tourists, and also tourists from other states, the entrance points in our city - Dum Dum airport, Howrah and Sealdah stations - will have “Tourist helpline Kiosk”. They will get help from these centres to get transport so that they can reach the hotel without facing any difficulties. An Identity card will be provided to the foreign tourists by the state for visiting the popular pandals of Kolkata. It will have their passport number, mobile number and hotel’s phone number. They will be guided to the Puja pandals via VIP gates.
Festival of Lights
The West Bengal government is keen to put Kolkata on the global map, when lakhs of visitors - foreign and domestic - would gather to celebrate Bengal’s biggest festival Durgostav with pomp and grandeur.
The tourism department and Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) have joined hands for the first time to decorate the city with lights and give Kolkata a festive look. All entry-exit points to the city would have gates lit and important buildings and road crossings would be decorated with chain lights.
According to the tourism department’s guidelines, the illumination would be done from October 9 to 18 for a span of 12 hours starting from 5.30 pm. Decorative and well-lit gates would be put up temporarily at the Second Hooghly Bridge and Howrah Bridge. All important and landmark buildings of Kolkata, too, would be illuminated with chain lights during the days of the festival.
Important road crossings that would be illuminated with decorative chain lights include crossings at Shyambazar, Dalhousie, Dorina, Park Street, Elliot Park, Rabindra Sadan, National Library, Belvedere Road, Hazra, Rashbehari Avenue and Gariahat Bridge Parapet (east & west) along with the entire stretch of the riverfront, among others.
The Tourism department has arranged for different morning and an afternoon packages availing which, people can visit various tradional as well as “theme puja” pandals across the city. Traditional pujas organised at renowned families, where the entourage will be taken include Shobhabajar rajbari, Rani Rashmoni’s place, Chhatubabu and Latubabu's house, Chandra Bari, Thantania Dutta Bari will give the feel of a homely puja ambience. The bhog and Prasad at Shobhabajar Rajbari will be distributed to the tourists.
Those who wish to escape the mundane city life during the four days, can get a slice rural Bengal by availing the package of “Hooghly Safar” which will take travellers to 300 yrs old Goswami Bari Puja at Serampore, 100 yrs old Hanssehewari Devi temple and a very old Anant Basudev temple at Bansberia, boasting of terracotta architecture, among others.
People who want to avoid the city crowd can take cruise rides on the Hooghly river during the Puja days. Pujas will be arranged in the vessels, apart from a lineup of cultural programmes.
Immersion trip will be arranged on the river Hooghly on Bijoya Dashami, the last day of the festival so that people can watch the immersion while enjoying a river cruise.
Durga Puja is an identity for Bengalis. The initiative by the government to promote it at a massive scale only gives the festival more visibility and secures West Bengal a spot on the global tourism map.
Click Here For The Complete List Of Packages On Offer From WBTDC