Tuesday, September 29, 2009

They breathe life into our Gods...Kumartoli, Kolkata


In the first decade of the 18th century most of Calcutta was still a jungle. Amidst the swamps and paddy fields lived fishermen who set up small markets on raised patches of land called dehis. The city of Calcutta covers an area once occupied by three villages. To the north were the villages of Sutanuti and Dihi, while to the south was the village of Govindapur where the British established Fort William. Sutanuti was probably a cotton market and made rapid progress with Burrabazar at its centre supplying the British with provisions. As the British East India Company grew it attracted the services of wealthy Bengali businessmen. Holwell, an agent of the Company, divided the steadily-growing town into a number of quarters named according to the business conducted in each quarter. It is at this time that we hear of Kumartuli or the quarter (tola) of the potters (kumars). These kumars or potters have been engaged in the business of making the clay images of the multitude of Gods and Goddesses that we worship through generations. The tradition of clay image making in West Bengal probably has its origins in a medival village tradition but it was during the 18th and the 19th century that clay image making became established as the distinctive feature of Bengali culture that is seen today. Bengal specializes in preserving this age old tradition. Unmatched skills come to limelight during the festive season of Durga Puja
The tradition of clay image making in West Bengal probably has its origins in a medival village tradition but it was during the 18th and the 19th century that clay image making became established as the distinctive feature of Bengali culture that is seen today.Bengal specializes in preserving this age old tradition. Unmatched skills come to limelight during the festive season of Durga Puja. Months before the puja the clay artisans start to breathe in life in the images of Durga. Bamboo sticks cut in various shapes are required to make the basic structure of the idols and also the platform on which these collosal statue stands. Durga's figure is then imparted shape with straw tied with jute strings. Making of the Durga idols is a lengthy and back breaking process, and it continues to be doen dilligently and methodically by these artisans to create the most excuisite pieces of artistry. Such is the perfection of the idol making, that the skeleton structure of bamboo and straw are done by one group of artisans, while the clay mixing and applications are done by another group. And finally the detailing of the head, palms and feet are done by the highest graded artisan.

The second stage of idol making is applying the layers of clay. The straw figurine of the Goddess is applied with a first coat of clay solution where the percentage of water is high, this application helps to smooth the crevices left by the straw. The second layer is applied with great caution as it is the most important layer, giving prominence to the figure, the clay mixed in this layer is very fine and without any impurities. Palms, head and feet, all of which are separately made are attached to the torso at this point.

On the final day of the festivity as we bid farewell to the Goddess and all the pomp and gayeity that had filled our days, as we immerse the Goddess into the river amidst shouts of "ashche bochor abar hobe.. Durga Mai Ki Jai...", translated this would mean that next year will see a better , grander and a definite celebration of the goddess amidst us, our thoughts do not wander to those nameless artisans who breathed life into a clay model for us to believe in, for us to celebrate.

This post is a dedication to those beautidful and underpaid craftsmen of Kumartoli who for generations have given us the pleasure of the most looked upon festival in India.



32 comments:

  1. wow, fascinating. I'm loving learning about the arts and crafts of your area.

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  2. सुजाता जी,
    बहुत बढिया फीचर. सच में ये बेहद निपुणता मांगता होगा, एक कलाकार का जीवन अपने हुनर को बढाते जाने में ही निहित होता है.

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  3. I have seen in TV, the making of Devi pratimas in Calcutta and they have their own individuality. We don't see in any other place, this type of statues with huge and long eyes.

    Good to know the art of making these statues, Sujatha. Thank you.

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  4. I am learning from here.
    Interesting......
    Thank you for your visiting!

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  5. Isn't Calcutta also the home of Mother Teresa's convent? I wonder what impact she had on the people there with their own religious beliefs.

    Very interesting post. I see the nose ring in the last picture.

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  6. Such an interesting post.
    Thank you.
    I really enjoyed it.

    Margie:)

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  7. Thank you dear readers for your encouraging comments, Calcutta is this and much more, i hope to reach out to you with more of our culture and traditions with the help of this lovely page that has now opened its doors to me and aparna. I thank kavita for that.

    Gigi-Hawaii to your query I will say that Calcutta was definitely the chosen home of Mother teresa. She is an institution in herself and demands a complete post if not a series on her work in the city of joy and hope.

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  8. I must say, the artistry is just incredible.

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  9. a beautiful tribute to the unsung artists!

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  10. I must tell you these artists are really masters of their craft. They are making beautiful pieces and I admire them their skills.

    Thanks for helping me to make history.
    Pick a Peck of Pixels

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  11. Dear Blogger,

    We are a group of students from cochin who are currently building a web portal on kerala. in which we wish to include a kerala blog roll with links to blogs maintained by malayali's or blogs on kerala.

    you could find our site here: http://enchantingkerala.org

    the site is currently being constructed and will be finished by 1st of Oct 2009.

    we wish to include your blog located here

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    we'll also have a feed fetcher which updates the recently updated blogs from among the listed blogs thus generating traffic to your recently posted entries.

    If you are interested in listing your site in our blog roll; kindly include a link to our site in your blog in the prescribed format and send us a reply to enchantingkerala.org@gmail.com and we'll add your blog immediately. Ypu can add to our blog if you have more blog pls sent us the link of other blog we will add here

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    Write Back To me Over here bijoy20313@gmail.com

    hoping to hear from you soon.

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    ReplyDelete
  12. What a beautiful post dedicated to the craftsmen. The art is amazing...i love looking at them. There are so many places i would love to visit! India being one of them and then i want to visit Thailand! That would be so awesome! I always learn from your blog...Thank you!
    (((Hugs)))

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  13. awesome post..on the clay making business and nice pics!!

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  14. Great Post ....
    I felt like walking the roads of Kolkata when Job Charnok was bringing the 3 villages together...
    The next thing that comes to my mind after Kumar tuli is Chandan Nagar. The guys from Chandan Nagar is equally creative and they can replicate any event with their lighting!

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  15. @kay amazing isnt it?

    @Magiceye thanks

    @unseen Rajesthan thanks

    @Abraham Lincoln There work is amazing and yet remains undervalued and under priced.

    @Pakaramu thanks

    @bijoy as you can see this is a joint blog, so for your request , I hope to take it up with the other members, thanks for the offer, definitely flattered.

    @Kathy thank you very much for the lovely words, India has so much to offer, however its mainly projected as a poverty riddent third world country, am not wearing tints..it is a poor country compared to many, but there is history in every corner, do make the visit, it will be
    worth every penny you spend.

    @toon India thanks

    @SumanDebray very true the lighting from chandannagar guys is really amazing..I want to take that walk too from dehi to gobindopur..

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  16. Sujata let me first congratulate you for coming up with such a wonderful post...a post like this takes a lot of home-work.On my way to work i always used to pass this area where they make idols ..right from the stage of trimming the bamboo sticks to dressing up the idols,i have seen it all...its a lot of hard work.Kudos to you for dedicating this post to them.

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  17. They work so hard, to bring alive the Gods and Goddesses we love so much. It is tragic that they get very little money for their dedication and effort.

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  18. सन्देश अच्छा लगा...

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  19. Very informative post, well supported by pictures.

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  20. Wonderful post and never knew about the making of the idols.So fascinating.

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  21. @Kavita, i used o wtch in awe when I went to my mamabari and in the neighbourhood, the kumhars would make the idol, i loved most when they made those beautiful eyes.

    @Aparna many of these artisans are looking away now from this carft, it is so underpaid that the new generation is slowly steering away from it, thats a sad thing to happen.

    @Mahamantri Tasleem thanks a lot for taking the time and commenting, a very happy eid to you as well.

    @sumit Tomar thanks

    @Onkar Thanks

    @mumbai Paused thanks

    @Varunavi thanks

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  22. WOW can I say Art at its finest?? Absolutely beautiful.

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  23. Firstly two questions before i come to the post, 1>How did you know all those minute details about Kolkata history, are you a student of history in UG/PG? BTW I knew the three villages were Sutanuti, govindapur and Kolkata, may be I was wrong. And 2>how did you know all those finer details of making of an idol?

    This was truly a tribute to those unsung heroes, the integral part of Durga puja celebration all over the world..

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Blogger,

    We are a group of students from cochin who are currently building a web portal on kerala. in which we wish to include a kerala blog roll with links to blogs maintained by malayali's or blogs on kerala.

    you could find our site here: http://enchantingkerala.org

    the site is currently being constructed and will be finished by 1st of Oct 2009.

    we wish to include your blog located here

    http://kavita-myroom.blogspot.com/

    we'll also have a feed fetcher which updates the recently updated blogs from among the listed blogs thus generating traffic to your recently posted entries.

    If you are interested in listing your site in our blog roll; kindly include a link to our site in your blog in the prescribed format and send us a reply to enchantingkerala.org@gmail.com and we'll add your blog immediately. Ypu can add to our blog if you have more blog pls sent us the link of other blog we will add here

    pls use the following format to link to us

    Kerala

    Write Back To me Over here bijoy20313@gmail.com

    hoping to hear from you soon.

    warm regards

    Biby Cletus

    ReplyDelete
  25. @Lazy king thanks

    @Mustaf I am not a student of history,but of psychology. But today information is available if you are willing to look in the right places..so a bit of research was required for the post. I had lon felt for these men who for generations have made Durga Pujo so special for us, and as it was that time of the year, i thought why not?

    ReplyDelete
  26. It was very interesting for me to read the post. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

    ReplyDelete
  27. It was certainly interesting for me to read the post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

    ReplyDelete