Kolkata: It is clearly the biggest draw in the autumnal Hindu festival of Durga Puja in this eastern Indian metropolis and its suburbs here this year.
A 140-foot replica of Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa, created by the organisers at Sreebhumi Sporting Club, near Lake Town, in Kolkata, had been drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors even before the festival got off to its official start on October 12.
So much so, that police had to cordon off the area last Tuesday and close all access to the pandal (makeshift structures where idols are placed for display and worship during the festival) in view of overcrowding, raising serious concerns about violation of COVID-19 safety protocol and triggering a traffic jam on nearby VIP Road -- the city's primary link to Kolkata airport.
Over the last few days, Kolkata’s ‘Burj Khalifa’ has been the most talked-about pandal as people from within the metropolis and beyond have made a beeline for Sreebhumi Sporting Club’s puja premises to get a feel of what the world’s tallest tower looks like. For an overwhelming majority of those who had queued up — sometimes for more than an hour — it was pure wish-fulfilment: This was the closest they could get to seeing the actual edifice!
Earlier, on Tuesday, the stunning strobe lights, sending multi-coloured laser beams high up in the skies from the pandal, had to be switched off as there were reports of some concern being raised by Kolkata airport authorities.
Though airport officials have denied making any official request to have the laser beams at ‘Burj Khalifa’ switched off, there were reports in a section of the local media about pilots airing some concern with Air Traffic Control about those strobe lights from the pandal interfering with aircraft approaching Kolkata airport for touchdown.
Meanwhile, visitors are going gaga over Kolkata’s very own ‘Buj Khalifa’. Dona Singh, born and brought up in Kolkata but a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States, since 2007, was full of praise for the pandal. Dona, who was on a short visit to Kolkata last week, along with her husband Sumeet Singh, a software consultant based in the US, said she had been to ‘At The Top’ in Burj Khalifa, Dubai, in 2010, and was awe-struck by the tower. “Now, seeing a replica of Burj Khalifa in Kolkata is great fun! This pandal looks wonderful and a visit to Sreebhumi Sporting Club is totally worth it,” she told Gulf News in Kolkata.
The organisers of Sreebhumi Sporting Club’s Durga Puja had even arranged for the pandal’s chief designer to visit Dubai some months ago and see for himself what the Burj Khalifa looks like during the day time as well as at night, so that the structure, texture, look-and-feel of the pandal could be as close a replica of the iconic structure as possible.
Penchant for grandiose structures
Interestingly, Sujit Bose, West Bengal's Fire and Emergency Services Minister and a Trinamool Congress member of the legislative assembly from Bidhannagar constituency, who also happens to be the patron-in-chief of Sreebhumi Sporting Club’s puja organising committee, is known for his penchant for grandiose structures of global repute.
Barely 500 metres away from the ‘Burj Khalifa’ pandal is a replica of London’s iconic Big Ben, on VIP Road’s Lake Town connector. The Big Ben replica was also erected at Bose’s behest some years ago. Now, it serves as a major landmark in the Lake Town-Bangur Avenue area in the northern fringes of the city.