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The West Bengal government has allowed the holding of Durga Puja in the state on a low scale and with a host of pandemic containment rules in place. The decision was taken keeping in mind that the annual festival is a source of income for many small traders and people from the rural areas who have been badly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown and decline in business.
While many of the traditional households have decided to restrict the number of visitors to family members only, religious institutions like Belur Math have decided to keep it a closed door affair.
Several popular pujo organisers, including Belur Math, have decided to live stream their rituals on the main festival days. Plans to issue e-passes for pandal-hoppers are also being contemplated. People are being encouraged to watch the live telecasts on television and digital mediums.
However, for those who want to take a look at pujos around the city, special buses and trams have been scheduled for running during the festival days.
West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited (WBTDCL) which used to run several conducted tours on all days of the festival in Kolkata and to the districts, will be operating only three tours in Kolkata, which will cover the major neighbourhood Durga Pujas in north and south Kolkata. These day-long (9.30 am to 3.30pm) ‘sharadotsav tours by bus’ will operate between October 20 and 25. Tickets are Rs 2,200 per head (inclusive of breakfast and lunch). Passengers may book online.
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You may also choose to take a ‘heritage tour’ of Kolkata in the newly introduced open-top double decker buses, booking for which will soon start on the WBTDCL website.
While the future of trams in Kolkata is a matter of debate, you may enjoy a ride in one during the Durga Puja. According to West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), there will be two air-conditioned trams plying on Oct 23 (Saptami) and Oct 25 (Nabami). The trams will leave from Esplanade depot at 11am. One will travel through north Kolkata (upto Shyambazar) and the other through south Kolkata (upto Gariahat). At both points, the tram will stop for 45 minutes and then start on the return journey to Esplanade. Tickets are Rs 500 per head.
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WBTC will also be operating non air-conditioned executive buses and air-conditioned Volvo buses on Oct 23 and 25 for passengers to visit some of the famous puja pandals of Kolkata on a daylong tour. The buses will start from various points in Kolkata and its suburbs. Fares for the non-AC service start from Rs 300 and that for the AC service from Rs 1,500.
Between October 23 and 25, WBTC will also have a special Electric Bus Service (departing at 9 am) to see some of the popular Durga Puja pandals in the Salt Lake area (on the eastern fringe of Kolkata). Tickets have been priced at Rs 600 per head.
If you are not keen to go on a bus or tram tour, you may enjoy a ride on the river and see the immersion of the idols on October 26. Operated by WBTC, the double-decker boat will cruise along the ghats on the Hooghly River between 5.30pm and 9.30pm. Tickets are Rs 1,400 per head (including dinner). For all WBTC ticket bookings, you may check their website or call 8697733745/ 8697733388.
Note: Tickets for all tours have to be bought in advance. Passengers have to follow all safety and pandemic containment rules, including wearing of masks.
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