The British club in Kolkata and the Bengal Chamber organised an adda (a bengali word that refers to a form of intellectual exchange among members) on ‘A tale of two festive cities – Durga Puja in London and Kolkata’ at the British Club last week.
Durga Puja is one of the world’s most grand spectacles and the perfect ‘living bridge’ that connects Britain and Bengal. From Big Ben to Buckingham Palace, the city has made London a part of its own, through the beautifully themed pandals during the 10 day long festival. It brings the creative best out of artisans, who work for months before the Pujas, to create unique pandals and idols according to the themes.
Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata who moderated the adda said, “An estimated 700,000 people in the UK speak Bengali and I am told that there are more than 200 Bengali associations. The Bengali groups in the UK are quite vibrant with a strong connect to their country roots. It is a fantastic asset in creating goodwill between the two countries broadly in terms of understanding each other better. Durga Puja is truly one of Bengal’s best known brands. The creativity on display during the festival in and around Kolkata is spectacular.”
“British Council is supporting the government of West Bengal Tourism Department to develop greater support for the pujas so that they can get more tourists here. This can be done by doing proper marketing and getting visitors. The government of Bengal can invite tourists from Britain who can be a part of this massive event.” added Bucknell while talking to Media India Group.
Promoting West Bengal’s colours
Bucknell moderated the Adda with Kounteya Sinha, former UK based journalist. While talking to Media India Group, Sinha said that this festival can be used to improve the economy of the state : “Durga Puja is a product and we need to ensure that we market the festival in such a way that we can get more people to come from London. This is a great festival for everything, not just pandal hopping but for its food, culture and energy as well. If you go to London you have Nottingham parade but it’s smaller in comparison to our festival that has millions of people participating”.
“It is not just a festival but a cauldron of great many things. We need to market the madness that is associated with the festival. The environment in London during pujas is same. There is no pandals there but the community halls are filled with people ”, he added.
London based Durga Puja organizers also told that they celebrate the festival following the same rituals and on the same day, as it is done in Kolkata and other parts of Bengal. Cultural programmes and inter-community involvement, food and bhog are vital part of the festival. However, the immersions of the idols are not done in the UK as per local laws and regulations. Also, most of the idols in the UK are shipped from Kumartuli in Kolkata.