Artisans at work behind Durga Puja celebration

Durga Puja, the grandest festival of Bengal in India, is a traditional ceremony dedicated to the worship of Devi Durga, the goddess of power (Shakti), in form of Divine Mother. Though Bengal has been the center of this festivity since the 15th century, it has become a global celebration with the migration of Bengalis to other countries of the world. How glittering and glorious Durga Puja is will be convincing to you, if you fly to Kolkata in the month of October. To be precise, it is the ultimate cultural extravaganza and festive gala in Bengal whose history is associated with the Muslim rule and the British colony in India.

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Durga Puja celebration was a sign of prosperity and power in the aristocratic class of Bengalis, to say landlords as shown in the National Award winning movies of Rituparno Ghosh such as Utsav, Hirer Angti and Antarmahal. It is also heard that some influential landlords used to invite the British officials to attend the celebration so that they could be in good books of the British East Indian Company. With the passing of time, Durga Puja became a mass celebration outside the embellished interior of palatial houses in Bengal.

However, there is controversy about the origin of the festival. According to the folklores of Bengal, the landlords of Malda and Dinajpur were the first to have initiated the festival in the 15th century. The Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India, says that Lord Rama had first worshipped Devi Durga to be blessed with victory over Ravana. Let’s keep aside the controversies, myths, legends and folklores to focus on the men at work behind the canvas – the clay idol makers or potters at Kumortuli in Kolkata, on the bank of Hooghli River.

You might have caught gripping glimpses of Durga Puja celebration in some Bollywood movies, to say Pradip Sarkar’s Parineeta and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. But, Kumortuli where thousands of Durga idols are made for domestic celebrations and the Bengali communities on foreign shores has remained out of the focus of directors’ camera lens. The 5-day long celebration precedes preparations for 3-4 months in advance. The making of Durga idols at Kumortuli is the major part of the preparation. This locality by the riverside is a tourist attraction of Kolkata on days of the idol making.

Kumortuli is older than the city itself. The foundation of the city dates back to the year 1690, whereas Kumortuli has been into existence long before that. The ancestors of today’s potters were supposed to migrate from their native land Krishnanagar to Gobindapore, one of the three villages the then Calcutta was built with, in quest of sustenance. They settled by the river of Ganga or Hooghly River and began to make clay pots, utensils and idols for a living. Since then they have been supplying idols to the puja committees at home and abroad.

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The idol making process is often disturbed by adverse atmospheric conditions. The artisans at work brave all odds to get the idols ready by Mahalaya, the day when Goddess Durga is invoked. However, it is a pleasure to watch the artisans make life-like idols out of clay. These days, the making of theme-based artistic idols with aesthetic appeal is the trend due to competition among the puja committees. The concrete image of Devi Durga sitting on a lion and slaying the buffalo demon at her feet evokes awe, wonder and devotion.

The artisans of Kumortuli remain in the dark on the flipside of the celebration though their innovative creations are cruised to the overseas countries of the USA, Europe, Africa and Australia. Being an NRI you celebrate Durga Puja festival away from home every year, but the feel, the flavor and the fervor of the traditional celebration are best experienced only in Kolkata, in Bengal, in India. is offering the opportunity to book the cheapest flight to India and fly to Bengal this Durga Puja. After all, it is a great occasion for homecoming and reunion with the loved ones.

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