What Goes Behind Making Durga Idol? History And The Process Behind It

What Goes Behind Making Durga Idol? History And The Process Behind It

Durga idols take form in the skilled hands of idol makers at Kumartuli, a traditional potters' quarter in northern Kolkata, renowned for its sculpting expertise and the export of these idols.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, October 18, 2023, 10:07 AM IST
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Durga Idol making at Kolkata's Kumartuli | Instagram/kumortuli_dot_com

Durga Puja is almost here! The popular Hindu festival is a time for devotion, spending time with your family, and some fun. Though the festival is celebrated across the country and even abroad, the real magic lies in Kolkata. The 'City of Joy' has received a UNESCO tag of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for the festival.

Durga Puja is incomplete without stunning theme Puja Pandals, music, art, food, lighting, and most importantly, the Durga Idol. But the making of the idol has some very interesting history and significance in Bengal. This intricate and artistic process engages highly skilled artisans and sculptors.

History

The history of Durga idol-making can be traced back to ancient India, with roots in the worship of goddess Durga as depicted in Hindu scriptures and mythology. The Durga Puja festival, as it is celebrated today, has evolved over the centuries. The tradition of creating elaborate Durga idols for worship during this festival became popular during the 18th century, when the zamindars (landlords) of Bengal began sponsoring the event.

Since then, the art of making Durga idols has continued to flourish and evolve, and it has become a significant part of the cultural heritage of the region.

Significance of Kumartuli

Durga idols take form in the skilled hands of idol makers at Kumartuli, a traditional potters' quarter in northern Kolkata, renowned for its sculpting expertise and the export of these idols. In the maze of narrow lanes, over 400 workshops have been practising this craft for generations.

Many artists travel great distances from West Bengal to breathe life into every detail of the goddess and adorn her divine abode, while some of their creations are even shipped abroad to places where the festival is celebrated.

Eco-Friendly Sculpture

Compared to other idols made across India, these idols are eco-friendly and are crafted using materials like bamboo and clay. Most of the clay is transported by boat down the Hooghly River from a nearby village.

Intriguing Tradition

Notably, an intriguing tradition involves obtaining soil from a brothel and blending it with clay. This soil is known as 'punya maati' (blessed soil), collected from a 'nishiddho palli' (forbidden territory). According to a belief, when a man visits a brothel, he leaves his purity behind, and it mingles with the soil there. Others argue that this soil is used to honor the purity of the souls of the sex workers, despite their profession.

Process of making a Durga Idol

The creation of a Durga idol is a meticulous and labor-intensive process that involves several stages:

1. Selection of Clay: The process begins with the selection of the right type of clay, often locally sourced. The clay is mixed with other materials, including straw, to give it strength and durability.

2. Creating the Armature: An armature, typically made of bamboo and wood, is created to provide structural support to the idol. It serves as the framework upon which the clay is applied.

3. Modeling and Sculpting: The artisans begin to sculpt the various parts of the idol—Durga, her lion mount, Mahishasura, and other associated deities. The sculpting process requires great skill, as the artisans need to bring intricate details and expressions to life.

4. Drying: Once the basic form of the idol is completed, it is allowed to dry. This can take several weeks, depending on the size of the idol.

5. Smoothening and polishing: After drying, the idol is carefully smoothened and polished to achieve the desired texture and finish.

6. Painting and Decoration: Artisans then paint the idol in vibrant colors and decorate it with jewelry, clothing, and other accessories.

7. Installation and Worship: The finished Durga idol is installed in a pandal (temporary shrine) and worshipped during the Durga Puja festival. The festival typically lasts for five days, during which various rituals and ceremonies are conducted.

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