“Never kill what don’t die……….”
You have Social events and you have religious events. And then you have the Durga Puja. In September-October, the eastern part of the nation is rocked by a flood of happiness and festivities popularly known as the Durga Puja. Especially in Kolkata,people come flocking in as the city grooms itself up in colors unknown. imagine a lady dressing herself up just for her loved one to love her back. Huge pandals get built in days, huge fairs get settled in parks, huge crowd of Pandal hoppers thong the streets on the days of the Puja. If there is one place to be during this time of the year, it is here.
But then, without the idol, nothing ever is possible. Durga idols are built up in different styles by millions of artisans working day in and day out in the days leading to this occasion. And out of these idol-makers, a three-fourth of them thrive in this little street of North Kolkata, Kumartuli. Have you ever sensed what it would be like if you just saw something amazing and powerful being created out of nothing in front of your own eyes? I’ll tell you what, you wont be sleeping the night! Durga idols depicting strength,power,valour and above all victory of good over evil are built from nothing but straws and mud and a few structures of wood. Magic happens before your eyes. Kumartoli has been the hub of Durga idols since time immemorial in sync with the festival over the years. Kumartoli idols have become the classic definition of Bengali art and a paradise for photographers and art lovers alike. We had a tete a tete with Arnab Biswas, chief sculptor, Manash Art Studio. Note that the entire conversation happened in Bengali. Here are excerpts:
Me: Hi,whats your name??
Arnab: Arnab Biswas
Me: Where are you from and how long have you been associated with this profession?
Arnab: I’m from North Dinajpur(a district in West Bengal) and I’ve been making idols since the last 13 years.
Me: What prompted you to take up this profession?
Arnab: Creating something new is always special and if that be creating something as awesome as a Durga idol,anybody can do it.(grins)
Me: No,not anybody can do it,my friend. What do you think about the heritage associated with this?
Arnab: Its an honour to be associated with something as unique as this. Back in our villages, they respect us fro what we do. Its an immense feeling to see those eyes shining brightly in all that light and imagining those days you had spent in those dark gloomy damp rooms to bring it to shape.
Me: Wow, that’s awesome. How do you aim to preserve this culture in the days to come?
Arnab: God never fades. We don’t preserve her. She has her own ways!
As you watch Arnab go back to work, you cant help but imagine that its sheer passion, much more a driving factor than money that keeps these men going. And yes, miracles do happen everyday. Kumaortoli stays in my heart as I make my way home, walking past the hundreds of artisans at work. They are so pre occoupied with their job that they wont notice until you ask them to stop. Photography is strictly prohibited because of privacy issues but they don’t let requests go begging. I got my share,hopefully. And as far as preserving this culture is concerned, this needs no preservance. “Bangalir shreshto utsob Durga Pujo” or The most celebrated festival of Bengalis,this Durga Puja isn’t latting this tradition go to waste in the years to come. Kolkata truly possesses a heart, and maybe…….
…………my heart too!