Artists paint and cast idols for Durga Puja festival

KOLKATA, India (AP) – Spirits are soaring in India’s ‘City of Joy’ as tens of thousands of people line the streets of Kolkata to celebrate ‘Durga Puja’, the most important to the Bengali community.

The five-day festival which started on Saturday is marked by prayers to the Hindu goddess Durga, feasts, merry-making, music, dance and drama marking the victory of good over evil. People visit community centers richly illuminated and decorated with idols of Durga and other goddesses revered by the Bengali community.

This year’s Durga Puja in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal comes after two years of battling the pandemic on large gatherings and follows UNESCO’s recognition of the Kolkata festival as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”.

Artists began preparing for the festival months ago by making thousands of clay idols at Kumortuli, the oldest pottery colony in Calcutta.

The Arts Quarter sprang up unexpectedly in congested narrow lanes and alleys on the east bank of the Hooghly River. Studios dot the area with no concrete construction or proper doors. The artists use the space as their home-workshop with communal facilities.

With their work becoming more popular, craftsmen have introduced fiberglass idols and exported miniature Durga idols to the UK, USA, Japan, Bahrain and other countries.

The work begins with a skeleton of bamboo and wood, which the artist methodically binds together with rice straw to give it a human form. The artist then places clay on the dolls in human form.

The faces of the idols are molded or even made by hand. The clay is collected from the Hooghly River and mixed with small pieces of hay and wood dust collected from sawmills. The artists paint the idols in colors chosen by their clients.

Last December, the United Nations cultural agency inscribed the Durga Puja of Calcutta on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Eric Falt, director of UNESCO New Delhi, said the inscription would encourage communities that celebrate Durga Puja, including traditional artisans, organizers and visitors.

Kolkata was nicknamed “The City of Joy” after a 1985 novel by Dominique Lapierre of the same name which was adapted into a film by Roland Joffé in 1992. The theme centered on the joyful spirit of people overcoming difficulties .

About Margaret L. Portillo

Check Also

Art, architecture and the perfect winter weather combine in Scottsdale, AZ

Hotel Valley Ho OH Pool, AZ. ©2011 Mark Boisclair Photography Inc. On a 72 degree …