Kolkata: The banks of the Ganga and other water bodies wore a festive look as people from all walks of life joined in colourful processions to immerse idols marking the end of Durga Puja - West Bengal's biggest socio-religious carnival.
As per the religious almanac, Vijaya Dashami - the last day of the Puja - fell on Friday merging with Mahanavami, but most of the over 2,700 community puja organisers participated in idol immersion on Saturday only.
Married women decked in the ritualistic red-and-white sarees marked the event with the customary "Sindoor Khela" or smearing each other and the idols with red vermillion to prepare goddess Durga and her four children - Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik - for their return to their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash.
Hundreds of devotees, including the young, joined hands in gently lowering the idols into the river. An element of emptiness at the end of the biggest celebration in this part of the country overcame all and sundry, but they consoled themselves shouting "Asche bochor abar hobe" (See you next year).
Central Kolkata's Babughat, a popular stretch on the Ganga, was the centre of attraction as it drew a large number of people, even from abroad, who soaked in the festive spirit. Most were clad in ethnic wear as they danced all the way to the ghat to the beats of the dhaak (drums).
Leading actors and actresses of the regional film industry were seen lending a hand to help the goddess during the immersion. Senior citizens played cymbals as the idols were lowered into the water while children splashed water on the submerging goddess.
The immersion ceremony symbolises the end of the goddess's annual sojourn to her paternal home and she returns to her husband Lord Shiva at their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash.
Elaborate security arrangements by city police as well as civic authorities were in place on various ghats of the river to ensure that the immersion of the idols passed peacefully.
Officers of the Kolkata Police manned the riverfront to prevent onlookers from getting too close to the river. Special vigil was maintained from a watch tower near the ghat.
Cranes were deployed at certain ghats to lift and extricate the remains of idols from the river to avoid pollution. Additional lights have been put up at the immersion ghats and the flowers, levers and metallic weapons were dumped in separate vats to avoid polluting the river.
Apart from maintaining law and order during immersion, the teams of river police and disaster management groups patrolled the river. Closed-circuit television cameras were installed at certain ghats, a senior police officer said.
As evening descended, large parts of the city got clogged as idols of big ticket community pujas were taken for immersion in big and colourful processions accompanied by large number of devotees.
There were long queues before sweet shops as people started visiting relatives and friends to wish each other "Shubho Bijaya" - Happy Bijaya Dashami.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also extended Vijaya Dashami and Dussehra greetings to the people through her official Facebook page.