Symbolising a living heritage is the idolmaker village of Kumartuli
Come Durga Puja and Kolkata’s excitement knows no bound. But the season of festivities arrives in Kumartuli in Kolkata much before where one sees clay idols taking shape for the main Puja celebrations. Many skilled hands give life to the Dashabhuja Durga, at this over three centuries old potters hub.
All Photographs: Ayandrali Dutta
It’s said that the first potter was brought from Krishnnanagar to Kolkata to make the Durga idol for Raja Naba Krishna Deb of Sovabazar. This celebration was held to commemorate the victory of the British at the Battle of Plassey against the Muslim power of Siraj-ud-daula.
Going forward the rich and influential families in Kolkata started celebrating this Puja. With each passing day the demand grew and the potters settled a colony near Hooghly River. And from here they started to produce exquisite pieces of art year after. The craft has seen transference from generations to generations in this hub.
This small little locality in Kolkata is a world of its own that will enchant you. The intricate detailing and the hard work that goes in is fascinating. It has grown into a trade and is contributing towards the livelihood of many people.
Apart from this occupation, there are services which support this industry to a large extent. There are also workers who are hired months before the peak season so that the demands can be met.
Working through the night and doing overtime the potters mix khori mati (a special clay prepared from sea froth) with colouring chemicals and tamarind seeds so that the colour stays for long.
Every family of artisans has different and distinct style of making these idols. It’s estimated that they make 15000+ idols are made every year and that’s still increasing.