The godmakers of Kumartuli


The festival of Durga Puja is celebrated as a victory over the demon Mahishasura and Kolkata upholds this tradition with immense pride. The elaborate idols of Devi Durga draped in a red sari and heavily adorned with jewelery encompass the spirit of the festival. Kumartuli is a rather notable destination in the city known for perfected idols. The artists at Kumartuli has dedicated their lives towards the creation of the Hindu gods in clay and hay. However the Devi Durga becomes an ideal and personal choice for most of the artists.

The idols are created with reverence and grace as their creators pray and fast before the season begins. The process starts with kathamo, where a bamboo structure that defines the shape of the idol is created with intrinsic layers of straw. This soil rightfully known as punya maati comes from nishiddho palli or the forbidden territories because the a handful of soil is given by prostitutes. Some believe that this tradition is practiced to purge the  prostitutes off their sins.  

The soil is then added to create the clay, along with the holy soil from the banks of the Ganges and cow dung. Heavy layers of clay are then applied to the structure to create the body. The artists start by sculpting hands, fingers and the embellishments for her throne separately which is later attached to the body. They, then sculpt the intricate details with chiyari, a sculpting tool. This step is considered to be an  important ceremonial event in the festivities as the artisans in reverence prepare themselves to sculpt the eyes of the Mahalaya herself. Rumela Chandra, who hails from the beautiful city says: “Kumartuli is an integral aspect in shaping the culture of Kolkata, as every time the festival beckons, culture rises from the clay”. On the tenth day of Dashmi, with grand celebrations and processions, the idol is  taken to the waters for immersion after smearing red vermillion over her forehead. And the artists of Kumartuli return to other gods, waiting for the next season to put their soul in crafting their favourite goddess Durga.

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Topics : #religion

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