Kumartuli, Kolkata’s potters’ colony has been churning out clay statues and idols by the dozens round the year. 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.
The winding lanes are filled with more ramshackle workshops flanked by countless figures and statues. The artisans here have been in this profession for generations, carrying on a 300-year-old tradition of craftsmanship, since the days of the East India Company when the city was created and areas divided according to workers from different professions and industries.
Some of them say their families date back to around 1757, before the city was even formed or founded, when they were involved in making clay kitchen utensils and toys! Walk around the narrow lanes, taking care not to brush against the many wet clay works in progress. Strike up conversations with idol makers as they work or take a break over cha.
They potters’ workshops get orders from all over India and abroad. It has has become somewhat of a tourist hub now and a spot for photographers in the city who want to light up their Insta feed. During Durga Puja, the workshops churn out close to 4,000 idols.