Kumortuli-The clay artisan world
If you manage to visit Kolkata during August September month then never miss to visit Kumortuli-The clay artisan world.
Kumortuli is a traditional potters’ quarter in northern Kolkata and most well-known visiting point of Kolkata. If you really want to know then you have to visit this place at least once in life time.
I visited a lot of time and every time I feel amazed to see the skills they have.
Nowadays Durga Puja, one of the famous Hindu Festival, spreads almost every corner of the world. Durga Idols are exported from Kolkata to different parts of world.
But do you know the people who actually stand behind the making of idols from a lump of clay to beautiful structures. ? If you don’t know then continue reading.
It is about 350 years old and holds the aristocracy of the culture of old Kolkata.
Arts are scattered in every part of the world but Kumortuli is unique in its own way.
In the earlier days, Durga Puja was held in many Banadi Families. They hired the potters from Kumortuli. The potters used to stay in their house and day after day they made the idols within the house premises.
But now a day’s buying idol become more prominent than hiring potters because of the budget.
Still there are few houses where the old customs continues.
So coming back, every photographer who are staying in Kolkata or manage to come in Kolkata during this time, never missed the opportunity to visit Kumortuli.
Different kinds of Idols are made here but most prominent is Devi Durga Idol. This is the place where the artists toil day and night with a great passion to create beautiful idols by using straws, clays and different accessories. They started to make the frame by woods and straws after “KathamoPuja”, a prayer to the god before making the structure made of straws. After setting up the frame of Devi Durga, now the time is to put clay along with holy soil on them. With time and the touch of the artist, the frame and the lump of clay turn into beautiful god structures.
Now you must think from where Clay & Holy Soil comes …and why we used the term Holy Soil :
Clay and Holy Soil, both have unique characteristic.
In the older days Potters collected clay from the bank of Holy River Ganges, which is nearby to the Kumortuli. Now-a-days there are many distributors who distribute clay to the potters.
Another age-old custom is that a hand full of soil which is known as Holy soil (In Bengali “Punna Mati”), is collected from the Red Light Area, basically in front of the house of prostitute, because they are pure from heart.
After completing the initial structure by straw and clay, they use different spray colors to give the body color. When the colors get dry they start the decoration of the idols by gorgeous saree, ornaments and other accessories.
Traditionally they used two types of decorations :
Solar Saaj – When the Goddess is dressed in ‘shola’ or thermocol, it is called the ‘Sholar Saaj’.
Daker Saaj – When the Goddess is adorned in beaten silver garments, it is called the ‘Daker Saaj’.
But now a days they made different types of Idols according to the customers demand which is commonly known as Theme Idol.
The ultimate thing without which the idol become incomplete is the “donation of eyes”, commonly known as Chokkhu Dan in Hindu culture. It starts from the day of Mahalaya. During this time the artist fast for a day. This is the finest part of the idol.
Kumortuli becomes so famous that the potters even get orders from foreign countries. In that case they made idols by fibers which are more durable and after finishing they export through Ships.
There are many women artists but two names which you can hear in between all the men artists are China Pal and Mala Pal. They made their own place in the art of making the Goddess Durga.
Besides this there are many small shops where one can see small idols and many accessories which are used for Puja.
Note for Photographers:
An excellent place to discover the talent of artists.
If you love to take abstract pictures this is the perfect place. Furthermore if you want to make documentary on culture or artist don’t forget to visit this place.
From 2015 onwards Kumortuli is divided in two parts. North and south and named after two famous football team of Kolkata, Mohunbagan and East Bengal. Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity (Idol Makers Union) charged small amount for photography. This money is used for more betterment of that place. They have 2 types of ticket.
- For whole season – Rs 50
- For one day – Rs 10
One thing I like to share, few days back we visited there. One of the potters told us not to click his pictures. On further conversation, we get to know that some of the photographers misuse their photos. Please don’t do this. They are the real artists. Without them we cannot celebrate any puja either. So try to respect them and we should be grateful to them. Otherwise they will ban photographers.
Kumortuli- The clay artisan world
- It is open on all days.
- Must wear covered shoes.
- If you have dust allergy, use mask.
- Don’t disturb the artist. Rather talk with them softly, they will provide you many information.
How to reach:
Nearest Metro station is Shova bazar Metro Station. From there 5min walk. Many bus route is also available from different parts of Kolkata