Think Kolkata! You think hand-pulled rickshaws, those yellow taxis which are the city’s lifeline and the ever standing tall Howrah bridge. As the season of festivities comes closer, Kumartuli or the potter’s lane in Kolkata, located near Shobhabazar in North Kolkata, is one of the happening place where you get to see all the action happening as one get to see the clay models of the mother Goddess Durga being hand crafted.
The skilled hands gives life to Dashabhuja Durga, the creators simply leave you spellbound with their intricate take on these idols. Keeping pace with their super busy schedule, draped in soiled lungi the artisans give shape to these deity’s in their cramped workshops literally like burning the midnight lamp each passing day.
The settlement of this place Kumartuli, meaning “potter locality” (Kumar = potter, Tuli = locality) dates back to more than 300 years old. Formed by a bunch of potters who came here is search of a better livelihood is now home to around 150 families who live here. With more than 500 such workshops in this locality, making idols and other pottery making runs down to generations here.
The artisans work 24/7 in their workshops to complete these life-size idols of Durga and her family. The narrow lanes and alleyways comes to life and humanity and god all are seen under one roof in various stages of creation. These are mainly sculpted using clay and straw along with entel maati, a particular type of clay that is found on the bed of the Hooghly River.
The popular beliefs goes is that the Ganga mud is mixed with cow dung with a handful of soil that is brought from the nishiddho pallis (the forbidden area: Kumartuli to is Sonagachi) and the final mixture is used to make the idol. This tradition is going on year after years. Goddess of Shakti Durga also fondly known as Mahisasurmardini is all about protector of life and empowerment.
Seeing the artisans craft such intricate beauties it reveals a fascinating world within that small little potter town of Kolkata as one runs his fingers delicately giving that fine line on the face while someone tries to fix the head right as the other is busy with his brush strokes. One would simply be left marvelled over the intricate detailing and the hard work that goes in, in creating such a beauty – the idols of Goddess Durga. This place is the prime base for all idol being made that goes to all far off land.
With the onset of Devipaksha or the time ascribed to the worship of the female power, Kolkata comes to life and it’s then when these Kumartuli artisans are all busy to catch a breather as they burn the midnight lamp to give the last best shot and touches to the idols of Durga and her offspring Kartikeya, Ganesa, Laxmi and Saraswati.
The lanes of Kumartuli gets a new renewed vigour as they contribute to the quintessentially significant element for the worship of the deity. Kolkata gets wrapped in the colours of celebration as its uniform civil code. If you love art, you shouldn’t just miss visiting Kumartuli to soak into the whole experience.