Pujo Must-Do: Take A Walk Around Kumartuli
Clay Sculptures, Heritage Walks, Artisan Workshops
What Makes It Awesome
It's that time of the year folks and Pujo is around the corner. This is just about the right time to go for walks around Kumartuli with your camera and see artisans at work creating Durga idols in old neighbourhoods where the clay modellers have lived and worked for generations. A vast range of craftsmanship goes into making the Durga Puja festival a success, right from the building of pandals, the clay idols of goddess Durga and other gods that accompany her, and the special lighting in the pandals and streets. The preparations begin about six months before D-Day. Many of these will be exported for pujas abroad (including UK, USA, Germany, Singapore, Australia etc). The idols are crafted from bamboo, straw and clay from the Hoogly River nearby. A series of rituals are scattered through the making of the idol. These involve an age-old custom of collecting a handful of soil (punya mati) from nishiddho pallis (‘forbidden territories’ where sex workers live), and adding it to the clay mixture. An important event in the creation process is ‘chokkhu daan’, when the idol’s eyes are painted. This is the last step in the process, executed seven days before the festivities begin.
The area’s name is derived from the Bengali ‘ kumhor’ or potter, and ‘ tuli’ or small space. It is as old as the city of Kolkata, which was created by the East India Company by building settlements in a few scattered villages. New neighbourhoods came into being and were dominated by a specific trade or craft. Kumartuli’s unique workshop area in the older section of the city has become a tourist hub. In fact, entry tickets have been introduced to regulate the pre-Durga Puja rush. Travel operators offer special curated packages.During Durga Puja, the workshops churn out close to 4,000 idols. It is the idols of goddesses that are most in demand because the city’s biggest festivals are centred around them — Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali and, of course, Durga. Yet, the craft is dominated by men, and many of the family businesses are handed down father to son.