Kolkata, Feb 7 : Residents of Chinatown in Kolkata today celebrated the lunar New Year, also known as the "Year of the Rat", with fervour and gaiety.
A majority of Chinese live in Kolkata, and most of them moved to West Bengal shortly after the end of the Second World War.
"I am coming from Canada to celebrate the Chinese New Year, one of theost festive and most lively celebrations in Kolkata," said Elsie Lin, a Chinese.
For weeks, adults and children in Chinatown, known as Tangra, have been rehearsing dragon dances, putting up red flags and banners, and repainting the rows of houses, factories and restaurants that run along its winding and dirty streets.
"We go to temple and pray. We eat lot of things and buy new clothes in Chinesetyle," said Diana Lee, a Chinese child.
The Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in that country's calendar.
In the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by one of twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac. 2008 is the Year of the Rat.
Shops are full of cute golden-modeled rats, ranging from miniatures to life-sized charms and statues.
Most have big smiles, long tails and bulging tummies. Even Mickey Mouse gold charms are being featured, as a creature somewhat related to the rat.
The festival's many customs, observed by millions of Chinese communities around the globe, link back to the idea of inviting good fortune and prosperity, and chasing away bad luck.
Red lanterns are traditionally lit on the last day of the New Year festivities.
Many migrants who left Kolkata for Bangalore and Toronto in Canada, have already returned to welcome the Year of the Rat.
Chinatown in the state is home to many Chinese but the younger generations are moving out of India for education and in search of jobs.
Unofficial estimates put the number of Chinese in Kolkata anywhere from 5,000 to 200,000
A majority are engaged in business with a major segment involved in the manufacturing and trade of leather products. A sizeable number are also owners and workers in Chinese restaurants.