West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee picked up the brush to paint alongside acclaimed artists while Baul singers and drummers performed at the Mati Utsab (soil fest) that got off to a colourful start in Bardhaman district Saturday.
Banerjee painted alongside eminent painters -- Jogen Chowdhury and Subhaprasanna -- as thousands of people watched in Panagarh town.
Later, it was announced that Rs.10 lakh would be given to a welfare fund for the bauls (a religious sect known for their musical tradition) from the proceeds of the paintings.
Magsaysay Award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi, who shared the dais with Banerjee after a 18-month gap -- during which she even once dubbed her administration "fascist" -- showered praises on the chief minister.
The festival, which ends Feb 16, aims to showcase local folk art and crafts along with the traditional culture of Bengal.
The venue has a newly-dug pond full of fish where people are allowed to do fishing. The fest also features theme-based activities related to agriculture, handicraft and tourism.
In her address, Banerjee said: "My government is committed to improve the lot of the poor who have a deep attachment with the soil."
The chief minister announced that her government would devise a policy of involving folk singers like bauls as also drummers in publicising social and health issues like polio immunisation.
Writer-activist Mahasweta Devi said the Mamata government was a "government of the poor in the real sense of the term".
"People have elected her with lot of hope. I hope she would be able to complete all the work which has not been done over the past 34 years (when the Left Front was in power)."
She also lauded her government's rainwater harvesting scheme 'jal dhoro, jal bhoro'.