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.



Friday, September 25, 2009

Kantha -The folk embroidery of Bengal

For centuries, Bengali women used a Kantha, a light quilt or sheet to drape their babies to protect them from cold.



The Kantha used to be made from old Dhotis or Sarees. The soft worn out cloths were not abrasive and were gentle on the baby's skin. A woman would lay the worn cloth in layers and stitch them together. The thread for stitching was drawn out from the edges of the border itself. 3 to 4 layers of cloth were embroidered in small running stitches and formed a quilt.
The women made Kanthas in the afternoons, when they were free. Depending upon the time available and their moods, the motifs on the Kantha varied. Some times the designs were intricate...flowers, figures of birds and animals, scenes from their daily lives.


Sometimes the motifs were simple geometrical patterns. Considering there were no diapers and a new born baby needed frequent Kantha change, a woman needed a lot of kantha for her baby. As the baby grew, so did the size of the kantha.


In the 1980s, some NGOs mobilised women from the rural areas and made them self-reliant through the Kantha stitch. To alleviate poverty from the hinterlands, these NGOs taught the women the art of Kantha, provided them with raw material, gave them the designs and forever changed their lives. They introduced these simple run stitches on Sarees, dress materials, stoles and bags and sold them in boutiques and stores. The Kantha stitch Saree became an instant rage. This embroidery done on Tussar ( raw silk) became' a must have item' in women's closets. Many economically backward women have been empowered by this cottage industry. A lot of them have been able to contribute substantially to their family income and send their children to schools.



Kantha is now a very popular form of embroidery and many Indian designers have exposed this folk art of Bengal to foreigners through their outlets abroad.

Posted By Aparna.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A WARM WELCOME TO SUJATA AND APARNA

Hello Friends,today i happily welcome and introduce APARNA and SUJATA-our fellow blogger as the two new contributors in MY ROOM.Many of you already know both of them as they have very successful and popular blogs of their own.Our main focus will remain the same--topics related to various regional customs,culture,tradition,cuisine,attire,festivals,people,places,art etc of INDIA.At times we will have guest writers from various region and other Countries to share with us culture and traditions of their own.Hope to have a fun cultural-exchange this way.You all have always encouraged and supported this blog by your visits and comments ....i take this opportunity to thank you once again and at the same time request you to continue your kind support and encouragement.THANK YOU ALL.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye blogger

HI FRIENDS ...I AM TAKING A LONG BREAK OF FEW YEARS FROM BLOGGERS ...JUST FEW MONTHS BACK I HAD NO IDEA WHAT BLOGGING WAS ALL ABOUT.ONE OF MY CLOSE FRIEND NITU(NITUSCORNER)ONCE MENTIONED HER BLOG TO ME.ONE LOOK AT IT AND I REALLY FELL IN LOVE WITH HER BLOG AND WITHOUT ANY THOUGHTS I TOO JUMPED INTO IT...SUMMER VACATIONS HAD JUST BEGUN AND I HAD LOTS OF TIME TO SPARE.MY ONLY PURPOSE WAS TO HIGHLIGHT THE RICH CULTURE,TRADITIONS,CUSTOMS,PEOPLE,FLORA-FAUNA,PLACES OF ASSAM....IT WAS GREAT FUN.THE BEST PART WAS DISCOVERING MANY GREAT BLOGS AND MANY WONDERFUL FRIENDS HERE...YES ALL OF YOU...MANY OF YOU ARE REGULARLY MENTIONED AT OUR DINING TABLE.I THANK ALL OF YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HUMBLE HEART FOR SUPPORTING AND ENCOURAGING ME WITH YOUR COMMENTS AND VISITS.I AM A STAY HOME MOM RIGHT NOW,BOTH THE KIDS ARE YOUNG AND THEY REQUIRE A LOT OF MY TIME AND ATTENTION...BLOGGING NEEDS A LOT OF TIME,ITS LIKE HAVING ANOTHER BABY...I AM NOT VERY GOOD AT MANAGING SO MANY THINGS ALL TOGETHER.THIS IS SOMETHING I WOULD LOVE TO DO MAY BE AFTER FEW YEARS WHEN MY KIDS ARE LITTLE OLDER.I WILL VISIT YOU ALL FROM TIME TO TIME ,ONLY THAT I WILL NOT BE PUBLISHING ANY POSTS.SO HERE I AM SAYING GOOD BYE.THANK YOU ALL .

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gogona - A kind of jewish harp

(Note: This post was previously published in Bamboo Lounge)

(* This post was inspired by Kavita and Jim. *)
(Hello friends,i would like to introduce you to Pramathesh ,he is my guest for this post..i liked this post a lot and wanted to share with you all.Thank you Pramathesh for sharing this post .)




Picture 1: This side faces your mouth


Picture 2: This side faces audience

I was walking past a musical instrument shop and saw this wonderful instrument called Gogona which I often wondered but never tried. Gogona is a type of Jew's harp, a vibrating reed instrument that is used primarily in the traditional Bihu music in Assam. Gogona is an integral part of Bihu and it gives an extra flaovour to Bihu. Gogona or Jew's Harp or Jaw Harp is a simple musical instrument but whoever designed it was a genius. It is found in different parts of the world, so its origin is unknown. Or, perhaps it was developed simultaneously in different parts of the world. The easiest way to learn is to silently pronounce A-E-I-O-U while we give slight pushes to the right end. Now, you can play the instrument according to the beats of the music. Improvisations are your contribution.