Kumartuli artisans running against time to meet the deadline for Durga Puja

Kumartuli artisans running against time to meet the deadline for Durga Puja

Kolkata: As Durga puja, the largest and most awaited festival of the year for Bengali community comes closer, artisans of Kumartuli are burning the midnight oil to ensure that the 10-armed goddess and her children reach the pandals on time. Kumartuli, potters' abode, is located near Shobhabazar in North Kolkata— the name derived from the word Kumor (potter). The artisans usually work in eight-hour shifts, but just before the puja, when the whirl reaches a crescendo, they work all through the night with overtime pay. Since the year 1950, the locality has been in the business of sculpting high-quality idols of Hindu deities. It is home to several talented potters who toil tirelessly to create clay idols.

These idols are extremely popular and much sought after during the Durga Puja festival. Kumartuli's innovative designs and excellent quality have made a special place in the hearts of art lovers all over the globe including countries like US, Australia, UK and New Zealand. The settlement of this place Kumartuli, formed by a bunch of potters who came here in search of a better livelihood is now home to around 150 families who live here. With more than 500 such workshops in this locality, making idols and other pottery-making runs down to generations here. A typical workshop of the artists at Kumartuli is a linear rectangular room with an entrance facing the road or the lane. As you enter the workshop, there are rows of idols stored on either side. The walls are of bricks and sloping roof of tin shades supported on bamboo truss system and has mezzanine floors. Very few units have conventional staircases while the rest have wooden or steel ladders. These structures have a temporary roof because the artist and karigars usually come to these workshops only before Durga Puja to complete their work. This practice was followed till the British shifted their capital to Delhi. Thereafter, the urbanization resulted in the place of work being transformed into permanent residences and workshops. The art of idol making is unique and requires creative imagination skills with a long process. It is an important part of cultural practices for any culture and cannot exist without the tangible component. The art exists only when people involved have the passion to continue their art as a tradition along with the changing demand of time, as examined in the case of Kumartuli in Kolkata. The essence of built heritage lies in the interrelationship of its people, place and their activities.

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