When Kolkata is done with its themes, lights and grand immersion carnival for Durga Puja, a non-descript village in Howrah district’s Amta subdivision wakes up to similar theme decors, lights and festivities for Lakshmi Puja. Like all other years, puja organisers in Khalna are gearing up with innovative and creative themes for Lakshmi Puja on Thursday. More than 100 community Lakshmi Pujas are organised in Khalna, besides the goddess being worshipped in more than 5000 households in Khalna Gram Panchayat.
More than 2.5 lakh people from the rural belt of Howrah and Hooghly and a large number of people from Calcutta are expected to throng the pandals from Thursday evening. The queues will continue till early Friday morning.
The tradition of worshipping Lakshmi is practised for the last 150 years. Puja organisers said that Lakshmi puja was a large scale affair in Khalna because perennial floods in this village every year during monsoon prevented them from organising Durga Puja. A section of villagers, however, claim that they prefer to worship Lakshmi in the hope of bringing prosperity to the village. The theme pandals are accompanied with a fair with a variety of items available, food stalls all across the village. People of Khalna do not sleep on Kojagori Lakshmi Puja night.
The community in Khalna is a mixture of agrarian and skilled labourers. Several youths from this region are employed in industries, factories in Howrah town or along National Highway 6. “Most of the villagers are affluent farmers and their yield per bigha is much better than those in other parts of Howrah. Besides, hundreds of youths from Howrah work in Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat and Kerala as as goldsmiths. So we get a good sum as contribution from them. We never collect contributions from other villagers,” said Durgapada Rang, secretary of Paschim Khalna Rajbanshipara Barwari Lakshmi Puja. The budget of this community puja is Rs. 3.5 lakh this year. Most of the community puja organisers attract people with innovative themes. Pots full of money depicting Lakshmi and Kuber’s wealth, mountains and even pandal ceilings decorated with umbrellas are some of the ideas that have come across in themes this year.
It’s a task at hand for Howrah District rural police who are gearing up to ensure peaceful festivities on Lakshmi mi puja at Khalna and other adjoining areas. “A police camp will be set up. Around 300 police personnel and civic volunteers will be on duty to maintain law and order. Twenty to twenty-five police personnel dressed in plain clothes will keep round-the-clock vigil on pandal-hoppers,” said a senior officer of Joypur Police Station.