Celebrated in Bimal Roy’s “Do Bigha Zamin”, the once ubiquitous hand-pulled rickshaws of Kolkata have found a special place in Durga Puja branding this year.
An initiative of the 80-year-old Kashi Bose Durga Puja Committee, a score of these rickshaws have been decked up in cloth ruffles and tassels. These human-powered transports, with rainbow-hued wheel spokes, are moving through the city reminding one and all of the city’s British legacy.
“We have decorated the rickshaws so that they look prominent. We are currently using 20 such vehicles for branding of our puja committee,” Pradipta Nan from the north Kolkata-based puja committee told IANS.
“The idea is to connect the youth of Kolkata to the past and at the same time advertise our celebrations. As we get more funding, we will add more to the fleet,” Nan said. The rickshaws were refurbished at a budget of Rs 1.35 lakhs.
“We have provided special uniforms to the rickshaw-pullers and ensured they are well looked-after. Foreigners, who wish to take a ride can avail them free of cost. The drive will continue till October 19,” he said. Hand-pulled rickshaws were devised in Japan in the 1870s and they replaced palanquins.
They eventually spread out from Japan to the rest of Asia. Their use boomed in Kolkata in the 1920s and 1930s. Around 6,000 rickshaws operated during their heydays. They still ply in pockets of south Kolkata’s Bhawanipore and in Burrabazar in the north.
They have been largely replaced with the speedier cycle rickshaws.