Teary-eyed devotees bade an emotional farewell, as idols of goddess Durga and her children were immersed in rivers and lakes across West Bengal on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami on Friday, as the five-day revelry and merriment centering Eastern India’s biggest festival Durga Puja came to an end.
Scrambling to touch her feet one last time for this year, men, women and children, draped in traditional Bengali attire bade goodbye to their beloved mother goddess and wished each other well for the rest of the year.
Women dressed in white and red sarees applied vermilion or ‘Sindoor’ on the forehead and feet of the Goddess and fed her sweets and betel leaves or ‘paan’ and participated in ‘Sindoor Khela’ — playfully smearing the vermilion on one another’s face – as the last round of celebration before the immersion of the idol.
The banks of the Ganga and other rivers wore a festive look, with community puja organisers coming in colourful processions to immerse idols of the goddess and her four children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik, as the ‘Dhaks’ (traditional drums) playing pensive immersion beats.
Bulk of the prominent community pujas in the city and districts, however, refrained from immersing their idols as they are due to take part in West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s brainchild – Durga Puja Carnival, to be held in central Kolkata’s Indira Gandhi Sarani (erstwhile Red Road) later this week.
Babughat, located in central Kolkata, a popular bank of river Hooghly, was the centre of attraction as it as large number of devotees and enthusiasts gathered to witness the immersion ceremony from afternoon.
A number of idols from household and apartment complex pujas were immersed at the riverbank from 3 pm amid tight security arrangements by the Kolkata Police.
Idols were also immersed in north Kolkata’s Bagbazar ghat and central Kolkata’s Outram Ghat and Nimtala Ghat by the river Hoogly as well as in several other rivers including Icchamati and Mahananda in the districts.
While elderly devotees offered their last prayers, excited youngsters, dressed in new cloths, clicked selfies with the idols before the immersion to capture the memorable occasion.
“It is my first time in an immersion ceremony in Kolkata as I stay outside with my family. It is a wonderful experience to see many people soaking in the festive spirit to the fullest. This shows that no matter where we stay, Durga Puja is always very close to our heart,” said Abhishek Sen, a teenager from an apartment complex puja in Rajdanga.
“Of course I have a heavy heart because today is Dashami. We Bengalis wait for these five days throughout the year. But Dashami also means a victory of good over evil. So there is a glimmer of joy and hope amid sadness for all of us,” said a veteran member of another Puja committee.
According to the state government directive, a fixed number of people from each puja was allowed to enter the river bank while the rest of the procession waited on the road. City Mayor Sovan Chatterjee visited the spot in the afternoon to take stock of the proceedings.
At least 25 Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) workers worked in tandem to promptly remove the flowers, structures and ornaments of the idols from the water.
“We are working in three-four small teams to cleanse the river bank, remove the structures and dump them in separate areas beside the area. All the stuffs are then being lifted and taken away by the KMC trucks,” Sumit Panda, a KMC worker told IANS.
Several foreigners also gathered at the ghat to witness the spectacle of idol immersion and capture them on camera.
The immersion ceremony symbolises the end of the goddess’s annual sojourn to her paternal home and she returns to her husband Lord Shiva at their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash.