Durga Maa through the lens of an Artisan

Kolkata: Durga Puja is approaching along with the festivities of Navratri which have already started in India. As India is known for its rich and varied culture, the nine days of Navaratri also celebrate the victory of good over evil while the celebrations of Durga Puja last for five days and these five days are extremely important to every Bengali household. They wait for these five days throughout the year to enjoy, to come home and to celebrate the arrival of Durga Maa. These five days are marked by puja rituals, Pushpanjalis (offerings made to the deity), Sandhi Puja (lighting of 108 diyas), and many more things.

The festival is celebrated with full zest and grandeur in Kolkata- the city of joy. In these five days the city is decked up with pandals and lights with thousands of people descending on the roads to celebrate the festival. Through this time, the rough estimation of Durga idols stands over 2500, according to a source. The idols are mainly created by artisans in West Bengal’s Kumortuli. There are a number of idols which are also send to other cities as well. During this time, the idol makers or the artisans are very busy throughout the year, but this is the time where their schedule is on the peak. At this time, we managed to take an interview of an artisan, Shilpikor, Jayanta Pal (54) who lives in Uttarpara, who has been making idols for the last 30 years. Born and brought up in Uttarpara (a town in West Bengal) has made 16 idols this year. He was a guest lecturer in Indian College of Arts from 1995 to 2000. When asked about his age from when he started with this profession, he replied “It’s in the veins from the time I took birth.” He said: “I have been coming to these places since my childhood where I used to watch my father who was also an artisan.” His one of the students of the college, Raktim Chatterjee (47) calls himself as a painter but not an idol maker. He helps in the painting of the idols. He stated: “Jayanta Da was our guest lecturer and I used to be fascinated by his art and the way he used to handle the idols with care by giving it an elegance at the end.”

Jayanta Pal said that many of his junior artisans arrive during this festive from the outskirts of the state and reside there for a few months and help him in making the idols. One of his assistants, Samar Pal (47) said that he is from Nadia district and arrives in Kumortuli for his profession. When asked about the clay or mud from where it arrives, he answered that they get it from the ghats of Ganga. Pal says that they are very busy with their schedules during this time and they do not get any spare time to perform any other duties. They make idols of all heights starting from 6 ft to 36 ft to adjust it according to the height of the pandals. They also make the deities according to the themes provided to them.

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