Kolkatans do keep an emotional sense of their belongings. Many artefacts in Kolkata do help us to preserve our unique identity.
Kumortuli is one such unique example, an abode of idol makers located at SovaBazar in North Kolkata. It is traditionally a potter’s hub for more than three centuries. By virtue of their artistic productions these potters have moved from obscurity to prominence.
They are an independent international brand of Durga-Image makers. Kumortuli continues to remain an exclusive exporter of the idols of the goddess to different nooks and corners of the globe during Durga Puja to more than 90 countries.
About 450 studios in Kumortuli serve as both workplace and home. The potters who make these images are called ‘kumars’ and they often have the surname Pal or Paul.
This abode of idol makers not only supplies clay idol of Hindu God and Goddesses to Barowari Pujas in and around Kolkata, but also a number of idols are also exported carousing seven oceans.
Get to Know Kumortuli at a Glance
Image Source – Krisnendu Sar
Location of workshops: Mostly located around Banamali Sarkar Street where languish air melts into a buzz of activity.
Typical Kumortuli Idol: The idol is made of bamboo and hay — the bamboo serving as the skeleton and hay the flesh.
Product Used: A skin of Entel Maati, a sticky variety of clay procured from the bed of the Hooghly.
Time Taken: Takes three weeks to transform into a strong clay and hay structure.
Kumar Parar Katha
Image Source – Dibyendu Seal
Asiatic Society of Calcutta estimates that first formal “puja” of Durga was held around 1606 A.D. At present Baghbazar area in Kolkata by a zamindar Pran Krishna Halder. Four years later, Kumortuli’s “Kumars” started making the idols of “Maa” (mother goddess) Durga in clay for the neo-rich feudal lord Laxmikanta Roy Mazumder, who is the first patron of Kolkata’s potter’s town and initiator of “puja” of Durga in clay idols.
All types of clay idols like Saraswati, Laxmi, Ganesh, Kartick, Kali, Viswakarma, Durga etc. Among this Durga idols are most famous and is estimated that 15000 idols are made every year and still increasing.
The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) will implement the project JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission), 35 percent of its cost being borne by the central government, 15 percent by the state government, and the remaining 50 percent being arranged through loans.
KMDA will construct houses for artisans over five acres of land at Kumortuli on the ground-plus-three-floors pattern. It will also build an art gallery for artisans to display their creations.
A Glimpse of My Views
Image Source – Mithun Basak
A visit to Kumortuli exhibits the curious faces and inquisitive whispers of foreign tourists as they make a beeline for the area. With Durga idols becoming increasingly popular across the globe, a visit to the Victoria Memorial and a view of the Howrah Bridge are not the only attractions for foreigners in Kolkata. Tourists from different countries — America, Australia, China, Canada, Japan and England — are eager to look around and observe idols immersed in the river turns to river clay in no time, and the same clay is brought to create idols each year.
The cycle of Creation never stops and renews itself; it transforms itself into a new form. My research will cultivate this rich culture of Kolkata to make it a little more popular to my readers.