We all celebrate festivals with great joy and enthusiasm. We also spend a lot of money behind decoration of pandals or houses, food, clothes and other things. But all our celebrations would remain incomplete or next to impossible without the contribution of artisans for making beautiful idols of Gods and Goddesses. For us, it might be just a few days of celebration but it is the major source of earnings for the artisans. It is only because of their art that we bring huge or small beautiful idols at our home or pandals to worship them. It takes days and nights, weeks and months for an artisan to complete the making of perfect idols.
One such art of Idol making can be seen in Bengal during the time of Navratri. Bengal Artisans Contribution for making Durga Idols can be seen at Bangali Akhara near Langartoli. Splash of colours will overwhelm the visitors of Bengal when they visit Bangali Akhara. It is the house of idol-makers during Durga Puja.
A team of artisans from Krishnanagar (West Bengal) and Nadia districts are blazing the midnight oil for over three months to mould the most beautiful idols of Goddess Durga. Kumartuli means potters. In the workshops of Kumartuli there are about 450 families that have been into idol-making and pottery for generations. During Navratri, they hire extra helping hands from across Bengal because idols making is a grand affair. The goddess is not presented alone in a pandal, she must be accompanied by her four children, the lion she rides and the muscular demon she is shown slaying. The idols are made of bamboo used as the skeleton and hay as flesh. Once the structure is ready, it gets a skin of entel maati, a sticky variety of clay procured from the bed of the Hooghly River. Once it dries up, the finishing touches are given with bele maati, a finer variety of clay which also comes from the river. Using soil from the Ganga, paddy plant and clay, artisans give finishing touches to the idols. Even idols of Badi Devi and Choti Devi in Marufganj in Patna are moulded by artists from Nadia. In recent times, they have been receiving orders from Rajasthani and Gujarati communities settled in Bangalore, just that they requested for idols of ‘Ma Sherawali’. Bengalis often drape a Banarasi saree on the goddess, but for non-Bengali communities, they incorporate the feel of the fabric into the idol itself,”
Since the idol is huge, it is made in panels. It takes about 15 days for each panel to dry, after which they are put together. Once the idol is complete, it is decorated with special jewellery made from zari or brocade, paper, thermocoal etc, which is also brought from Krishnanagar. Some of the puja committees too contribute gold jewellery for decorating the idol.
The demand for idols has gone up over the years. Kumartuli is known to create close to 4,000 sets of Durga idols every year, some of which are shipped abroad. The idols are always pre-ordered and never sold off-the-shelf.
As per the interview given to The Hindu an artisan named Gobinda says, “I’ve been making idols ever since I was 18 or 20,” Gobinda, now 40, tells his story without stopping his work. “It takes about four days to create an idol of the children of Goddess. “But Durga’s idol takes about a week. Each year I make about 20 idols.”
When asked Gobinda if he always wanted to be an idol-maker. He said, “I didn’t have a choice. Lekha-pora to sikhtey paareni (I could not get an education). This profession may not give me a good life, but it gives me what I need — two square meals a day. I have no one to look after; my parents are dead and I am single. So I am able to manage,” he says.
However, traditions in the making of idols have given way to demands of time. Due to rising commercialism, the new-generation idol-makers now decline to adhere many of the age-old traditions.
Led by two brothers Sanjeev Pal and Nimai Pal, the artisans have set up a temporary base in the city as they have been doing for the last three generations. “Both my grandfather and father also used to come to Patna for moulding Durga idols before the Puja and I also accompanied them as a child,” said Sanjeev, in an interview given to TOI.
But Artisans like Sanjeev and Trilokdhari Pal, Nadia, say, “We still initiate the making of the idols on Rathyatra day. But, the tradition of bringing clay from the house of a prostitute to mix it with the rest of the clay and soil has been discontinued. Even ‘chakkhu daan‘ (painting the eye of the Goddess), which was earlier done only on Mahasaptami, is now done on the demand of the client.”
While Sanjeev and Nimai have kept their family tradition alive, they aren’t sure if their children and grandchildren will do the same as the profession of idol-making carries less social recognition and monetary benefits. It all depends on skill and experience. Wages starts from Rs. 1,000 up to Rs 5000 or a little more. Food and lodging are provided by the employer. After the festival, the Kumartuli’s follows their tradition of making potteries and sell them around the city, while other idol makers engage in making statues and animal figurines as per the demand.
These artisans always look forward to Puja to make enough money to feed their family and keep their hearth burning till the next festival.
The whole city is beautifully decorated and lit up and reflects the joy in the hearts of those celebrating the festival. If you wish to witness best Durga Puja celebrations then you should visit these famous pandals:
- Kumartuli Park Durga Puja Pandal
Kumartuli Park is immensely popular for the unique and surprising themes they come up with, every year. The themes are inspired by mythological stories.
- Bagbazaar Durga Puja Pandal
This Durga Puja Pandal is known for the beautiful idol of Mother Goddess Durga that they put up every year. It has been 100 years this pandal is celebrating Durga Puja in a simple yet charming way.
- Mohammed Ali Park Durga Puja Pandal
Mohammad Ali Park pandal depicts themes of several famous monuments from all over the world. The idols of Goddess Durga are classic one and mesmerising.
Checkout: Navratri Colours for 2016
ARTISANS MAKING DURGA IDOLS
1.Initial Stage of making Idol of Goddess Durga with grass, jute and bamboo.
2. Second Stage where the idol is covered using clay of River Ganga
3.The artisan is making the beautiful face of Goddess using clay.
4.Artisan joining parts of the idol to complete it.
5. Initial stage of Painting the Idols
6. Detailing given to the idols
7. Ritual of ‘Chokku Daan’ performed by drawing eyes of Goddess Durga on the day of Mahasaptami
8. Final touch given to the Idol and embellished with jewellery and other accessories.
9. The Idol is ready for arrival during Navratri.
You saw them making the idols now have a glimpse at their auspicious sight, click here.