Kolkata: Devotees across West Bengal tearfully bade goodbye to their beloved mother goddess Durga as her idols were immersed in ponds, lakes and rivers on Vijayadashami on Wednesday. The banks of the Ganga and other rivers wore a festive look, as puja organisers came in colourful processions to the accompaniment of drums to immerse idols of the goddess and her four children -- Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik.
Hundreds of devotees, including the young, joined hands in gently lowering the idols into the river. An element of emptiness at the end of the biggest celebration in this part of the country overcame all and sundry, but they consoled themselves shouting "Asche bochor abar hobe" (See you next year). Central Kolkata's Babughat, a popular stretch on the Ganga, was the centre of attraction as it drew a large number of people, even from abroad, who soaked in the festive spirit.
The immersion ceremony symbolises the end of the goddess' annual sojourn to her paternal home and she returns to her husband Lord Shiva at their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash. Elaborate security arrangements by city police as well as civic authorities were in place on various ghats of the river to ensure that the immersion of the idols passed peacefully.
"We have made arrangements for the immersion of idols on 13 ghats of the river. More than 200 volunteers from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation have been employed to ensure that the immersion is carried on smoothly," Debasish Kumar, member mayor in council said. Kumar said cranes have been deployed at certain ghats to lift and extricate the remains of idols from the river to avoid pollution. Additional lights have been put up at the immersion ghats and the flowers, levers and metallic weapons were dumped on separate ghats to prevent river pollution.
Other than maintaining law and order during immersion, the teams of river police and disaster management groups patrolled the river. Close circuit television cameras were installed at certain ghats, a senior police officer said. The city police have allotted three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to complete the immersion process. More than 2,400 community pujas were organised in the city and their idols will be immersed in the river.
In the morning, married women smeared the goddess and her children with red vermilion and offered sweets and prayed for the well-being of their families and long lives of their husbands. School students visited the marquees and kept their books and pens before the goddess praying for her blessings for a good academic record.
As evening descended, large parts of the city got clogged as idols of big ticket community pujas were taken for immersion in big and colourful processions accompanied by a large number of devotees. Late in the afternoon, however, most of the idols in residential apartments or houses of one-time zamindars were immersed after being manually carried as per tradition.
There were long queues before sweet shops as people started visiting relatives and friends to wish each other "Shubho Bijaya" - Happy Bijaya Dashami. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee also extended Bijaya Dashami and Dussehra greetings to the people.