Kumortuli – Land of God Makers
“Yaa Devi Sarvabhuteshu
Matri rupeno samsthita
Yaa Devi Sarvabhuteshu
Shakti rupeno samsthita
Yaa Devi Sarvabhutesu
Shanti rupeno samsthita
Namestasyai Namoh Namah”
— Sloka for Goddess Durga
If someone wants to see the best-est place in Kolkata.
If someone wants to explore THE Bengali Culture.
If someone wants to know about the root of prosperity of Indian aristocracy.
If someone wants to see a den, full of artists.
A Philosophy —
Kumartuli is the place one can visit. Art is everywhere in India and Kumortuli is not the exception but it is unique on it’s own way. Kumartoli or Kumortuli is a tiny town inside Kolkata (earlier Calcutta) and it is situated in the northern part of Kolkata, India alongside river Ganges. This is the only place of Artists for making idol of Goddess Durga (A Hindu God), it is also a way of life. It’s a integral part of Bengali Culture. Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Bengali and Bengalis worship the Goddess Durga during the time. Durga Puja celebrated during the month of October for four days and dates keeps on changing every year as it’s follow the rule of Bengali Ponjika (Dates in Ponjika made on planetary situation each year). Unless someone witness the same on his own, it is hard to describe how grand is the festival.
The idols of Goddess Durga made in Kumortuli. This is the place where group of potter toil day and night to give the shape of the idol and they start making idol after a ritual called “Kathamopuja”. Kathamojuja is a prayer to the god before making the structure made of straws. After making the initial structure of Goddess Durga with straws, they put clay on the structure to make the idol. The clay for the idol is collected from the holy Ganges river,which is nearby to the place and there is also a age-old custom that a handful of soil which is called “Holy Soil” (In Bengali Punnaa Mati) mixed with the clay, which goes with the clay for making Goddess Durga idol. Holy Soil is collected from Red light area, actually a handful of soil is collected from outside of a Prostitute house. After finishing the clay structure, they paint the God with colour and decorated with jewellery.
There is a another important event in the process of making Goddess Durga Idol, that is “Chokkhu Daan”. The literal meaning of “Chokkhu Daan” is donation of eyes, the painting of the eyes of the idol. This happen on “Mahalaya” and during the process the artist fast for a day. This is the toughest part of the process of making idol.
In olden days of Calcutta (Now Kolkata), instead of purchase idol from Kumartoli, families hired the artists from here, artist stayed at their place before Durga Puja and sculpted the idol at their place. But time has changed, rarely found that artist has been hired for making idol at their own place. Commonly, Barwari Puja Committees or Families placed their order for idol before Durga Puja to their desired artist of Kumortuli and they make the idol at their own place. Kumortuli also supply idols made of fibre, mainly to export to those countries, where Bengali community celebrate Durga Puja. Other than the artists studios, there are many small shops selling Idols. There are also number of shops selling accessories and garlands for the deity.
During this period large number of photographers visit this place and sometime the photographers become the cause of annoyance of the artists. This is the most crucial time for the artists and sometime they do not allow photographers. Most of the lanes of Kumortuli is narrow and can notice piles of clay, bags, plaster of Paris kept in tiny alley of the over crowded area.
The area is divided into two section north and south and named after two famous football team of Kolkata, Mohunbagan and EastBengal. For the last few years Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity (Idol Makers Union) they charged small amount to the photographers for taking photographs. The amount of the coupon for taking photographs are Rupees 10 and Rupees 25. The fund collected from selling coupons are utilized for the development of Kumortuli.
I lived so near to the place and I am so attached to the place since my childhood days. Every year before Durga Puja I do photo walk in the area and last week I went there along with my fellow photographers of “Kolkata Walks” Team. We gathered near Sovabazar Metro Station and started our walk at 7:30 AM from Banamali Sarkar Street. Many have promised to join us but at the final moment most of them turned down and finally I, Sumit Surai, Santanu Pyne, Subhadip Mukherjee and Diprojit went there.
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