Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday led a rally in Kolkata as a thanksgiving gesture to the UNESCO for including Kokata’s Durga Puja in Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Addressing the gathering, the CM said, “I wholeheartedly thank the UNESCO for this recognition and for honouring the labor of love of everyone involved. The festival unites people across the world regardless of their caste, creed, religion, history and culture. I salute this spirit of unity, humanity and harmony.”
For the people of Bengal, she said, Durga Puja is not just a festival but it is an emotion. “We worship Goddess Durga with utmost love and sincerity. I thank everyone who made this day a grand success,” Banerjee added.
Representatives of nearly 1,200 Durga Puja committees joined the rally that started in north Kolkata’s Jorasanko area and concluded on Red Road. Participants in the rally, dressed in traditional outfits, were seen playing ‘dhak’ and flute besides singing Puja hymns and dancing.
The Trinamool Congress supremo was accompanied by party colleagues Firhad Hakim, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Aroop Biswas and Shashi Panja.
The CM said, “The rally marks the start of month-long Puja celebrations. The UNESCO’s support will give a big boost to the festivities. A UNESCO team will be visiting the city on September 24 again to participate in pre-Puja celebrations. The team will visit some of the Puja pandals.”
BCCI president and former Indian Cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, who also attended the rally, said, “You may be poor or rich but Durga Puja is a festival that brings smile on the face of every Bengali.”
Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to India, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, said, “What a sight! When I met the Chief Minister three months ago, she said she wanted to organise a large-scale celebration and thanksgiving to the UNESCO. But I have to say that I did not expect anything this big. I have not seen such enthusiasm around an inscription as I have seen around Durga Puja.”
Falt further said, “We have had many opportunities to work with the West Bengal government while celebrating the intangible cultural heritage of the state. We have collaborated with the government for several years to provide support to around 50,000 artisans from the state who work on intangible cultural heritage. We are happy to work to promote this incredible heritage of India.”
At the stage, three football clubs from the state — East Bengal Club, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting — besides the Cricket Association of Bengal and Puja committees welcomed the UNESCO representatives with mementos and traditional items.
After the rally, the CM said, “A survey we recently got conducted by IIT-Kharagpur and British Council revealed that business to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore takes place due to Durga Puja every year. It benefits all Bengalis.”
—With PTI inputs
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