Dragon Boat Festival, which is also known as Tuen Ng or Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival. Though Calcutta has the only China Town in India, I have never heard the Dragon Boat festival being organised here. So when I came to know about the event, I made it a point to visit it.
Though the oriniser’s poster says Kolkata’s first, I think this could be India’s first too, as there are no other China Towns in this country. I won’t go into the details of what a Dragon Boat festival is, because the two best options to know about it are – Wikipedia and the image below which I clicked at the festival venue.
My plan was to cover the whole festival, but due to some family responsibilities I reached late almost at 7PM. Most of the food stalls were sold out by then and also a lot of events already over. But the little that I experienced, where enough to conclude that the festival was a grand success. Even the organisers admitted that they didn’t expect it to be such a huge hit. And from next year they promised to make it bigger, in a more organised way.
It was a rainy day, so I was wondering how many people will actually turn up. The rain stopped around 5PM just before the event started and when I reached the spot, it was jam packed. Thomas Chen was dishing out popular Chinese, Hindi, Bengali and English songs from the stage and crowd enjoying them along with the delicious food from the stalls, which were set up on both sides of the road. Reaching the food stalls were almost impossible at that time, and as I am familiar with most of the items, I decided to try and take some shots first.
The place was decorated with colourful Chinese lanterns and there were banners with the history of Dragon Boat Festival, Tiretta Bazaar History, Tiretta Bazaar Today etc. Unfortunately due to the huge crowd could not manage clear shots of all. Apart from the food stalls were the stalls of Pou Chong Brothers selling their signature sauces and a stall from Ni Hao Calcutta, a Chinese language school.
The Ni Hao stall was selling English – Chinese dictionaries, Chinese prayer sheets and customised bookmarks. In the bookmarks (Rs 30/- each) they were writing either Chinese blessings or your name translated in Chinese. I bought one with the meaning of my name written in Chinese.
Among the food stalls were the all-veg Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Centre from Tangra (loved their food at City Centre food festival and Calcutta Christmas Carnival in Park Street), my personal favourite Pou Hing from Tiretta Bazar (heard later they were selling pork items for that day only. My bad, couldn’t taste them as I was late 🙁 ) and China Town’s very own Kamala Phuchka. Everything from his home made phuchkas, to the water and the filling is different and customised for the people here. The Indian addition to the awesome Indian Chinese food which originated here in old China Town, Tiretta Bazaar.
Heard there were other food stalls and indoor activities inside the Sea Ip Chinese church, located next lane, but did not have the time to visit that place. The two events that took place after I reached were a performance by the Kolkata based Hip Hop dance group Big Bong Theory and an encore by the Lion dancers on public demand. The area in the middle was cleared for the performances. It would have been better if the area was bigger, but still the experience was great and specially for those who were experiencing Lion Dance for the first time (most in the crowd around me were seeing it for the first time).
Next year I am looking forward to a much better and bigger Dragon Boat Festival and hopefully will be able to cover it completely.