Kumartuli- Kolkata’s Idol-Making Hub That Brings Goddess Durga To Life Every Year
Most idols used in Kolkata’s famous Durga Puja are made at Kumartuli. Exploring Kolkata’s Durga Puja is incomplete without understanding the vital role played by this small but historic locality. The Durga Puja festival is just around the corner. Celebrating the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon - Mahasura, the festival lasts for about 5 days ending with immersing the Durga idol in the river.
Millions of Durga idols are bought by believers every year. But do you wonder where and how these idols are made? Well, here it is.
Kumartuli in Kolkata is a small locality famous for being a hub of skilled idol makers. It is situated between Rabindra Sarani (Formerly Chitpur Road) and the Hooghly river. The main area falls under Ward no. 9 of the Kolkata Municipal corporation. The famous idol merchants of the area are at Banamali Sarkar Street. Apart from Kolkata, Kumartuli artisans also export idols of Goddess Durga to foreign countries for the Durga Puja festival.
Goddess Durga Idol-Making Process in Kumartuli
Unlike regular clay sculpting, the goddesses' idol making is an elaborate process consisting of various rituals rigorously followed by the idol makers of Kumartuli.
Artisans perform a ritual on Chaitra Sankranti, the last day of the Bengali year, before touching dry bamboo sticks. Then, they make the framework of the first idol of the season using these bamboo sticks. After that, they can make many clay idols as per the demand. The framework is made using bamboo and dried straw, providing the initial shape to the idol.
After completing the framework, coatings of soft clay are applied in layers. Kumartuli artisans use a mixture of two types of clays, Ganga Mati (clay from the Hooghly riverbed) and Entel Mati (sticky black clay), along with hand-made glue, in the idol-making process.
The artisan renders the final shape to the idol at this stage. After that, the idol is sun-dried.
As per tradition, a priest has to go to the Nishiddhopally (forbidden territory, meaning brothel) and obtain clay from there. This clay is to be used in the idol making of the Goddess. However, the tradition is usually not followed in modern times.
At first, a layer of white paint is coated. After that, the idol is coloured with different colours except for the eyes of the Goddess. Traditionally, the paints were made using natural colours. The artisans also used to make their own paintbrushes. However, readymade paints and brushes are used nowadays.
The word “Chokkudaan” literally means “bestowing of eyes”. On the auspicious day of Mahalaya, artisans paint the eyes of the Durga idols invoking the powers of the divine Goddess.
The idols can be decorated in different types. The clothes, like Saree, Dhoti, etc., are skillfully draped around the idols. The cloth materials and designs don't follow any set rules. They change as per the latest trends. Alternatively, the idols' saree, jewellery and other embellishments are entirely made of clay.
The Goddess now becomes ready to visit her temporary abode with her children.
Apart from being an important part of Kolkata’s Durga Puja, Kumartuli and its continuous involvement in the puja festival over a long period is an assurance that some good things can remain constant in this ever-changing world.