Kalimpong, Jan. 23: Politics and modernisation seem to have conspired to scale down the celebrations of Saraswati Puja in the hills.
As the rest of Bengal worshipped the goddess of learning with traditional fervour, similar gaiety was missing in Kalimpong. Only a handful of pandals (read stalls) have been put up by devotees wary of upsetting their political masters. The younger generation, too, seemed too busy exploring modern entertainment avenues to celebrate Saraswati Puja.
The distinct lack of enthusiasm was apparent from the near-empty pandals. At the centre of the town, where more festivity is expected than any other area, only one pandal could be seen in an obscure corner of Main Road.
That, local residents said, was not the case even till about two to three years ago. “As children, we used to look forward to taking part in the festivity,” said Birendra Singh, the proprietor of a computer institute. Others, too, said it used to add colour to the dreary winter of the hills.
The residents were almost unanimous in ascribing the decline in the enthusiasm in idol worship to the machination of political leaders, who are bent on establishing the tribal roots of the Gorkhas. Harka Bahadur Chettri, a resident of the hill town, said: “With Ghisingh declaring that idol worship has nothing to do with the Gorkhas, people naturally stayed away from it.”
However, not everybody seems to be mourning the loss of the experience. For instance, the taxi drivers. “Now, we are saved from the regular harassment by chanda (fund) collectors,” said a driver, Prakash.