Kolkata: Smearing of colours, singing of songs, prayers and distribution of sweets marked the spring festival of Dol in West Bengal on Wednesday.
Thousands of people from various parts of India and even abroad congregated in Birbhum district’s Santiniketan, about 180 km from the state capital, where Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore had re-introduced Dol as a spring festival at the Visva Bharati university he founded.
The Santiniketan campus was a picture of mirth and gaiety as people danced on the streets to the tune of popular Tagore songs that exhorted everyone to mingle in joy.
The festivities began at the crack of dawn, as girls and boys of Visva Bharati, accompanied by their teachers, went around the campus urging people through songs to open their doors and celebrate Dol.
The girls, resplendent in golden sarees and garlands of fragrant flowers, and boys decked up in traditional kurtas, took part in a song and dance routine at the football ground. The function ended with everyone smearing one another with ‘abir’.
Curtains would come down on the festivities in the evening, with the rendering of Tagore’s dance drama by the university students.
In the metropolis, Bengalis exchanged sweets and pleasantries.
As the morning progressed, the youngsters moved around their neighbourhoods in groups, throwing water missiles and smearing coloured powder on one another.
“I have been visiting neighbours and friends, embracing them. It’s a day to renew people-to-people bond. In an age when mobile and computer games are making us self-centred, the festival of Dol exhorts us to come out of a shell and reach out to others,” said 70-year-old Sunil Kumar Dey.
Meanwhile, police arrested 54 people for drunken brawls and also seized 100 litres of liquor from the city.
Altogether 650 police pickets were set up across the metropolis, with Disaster Management Group personnel deployed at 21 ghats of the Ganga river.
Forty mobile vans patrolled the city, with 27 high radio flying squads on stand-by, a police officer said.
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In parts of the state, the festival is marked by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin, which is carried by the devotees around the town. People dance around and sing hymns in joy, and spray coloured water and smear gulaal on each other.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at its global headquarters in Nadia district’s Mayapur — about 130 km from here — observed the day as the birth anniversary of Vaishnav saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Devotional songs and cultural programmes, discourses about the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were organised on the occasion.