The narrow lanes are teeming.
Small yet frequent workshops dotted with moulds of straw, sculptures that seem to rise out of the earth, few painted with the aura of the gods, clay hands and faces baking in the sun, the omnipresent artisan busy at work. Time runs paradoxically here, you feel the hurry of the place, but no maker compromises on the quality of his work.
Kumartuli is the abode of the sculptor. It is where life is breathed into deities of Hindu lore – Durga and her children, Ganesha, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Kartikeya. With wood and straw the idols are formed, and given body with clay, in existence at one with the soil. It is more than just sculpting for the occasion of Durga Puja. It is art for the love of it, it is a story of labour and love, of imagination and creation. Each stage requires care and attention, where every movement of the hand is precise, carried out with purpose, shaping the clay till hand and object are indistinguishable. Narratives are woven into each pose, every expression.
These are the god-makers, gods themselves. They step into the role of the Creator, a powerful entity working under the influence of forces invisible to the human eye. Picking up bare, seemingly disparate elements from Nature, the creator brings them together to make something almost otherworldly – gods and goddesses from myth and legend in striking poses, re-enacting stories where they stand proud. The subject of their creation is largely known and much anticipated, but it is in the little nuances, the gestures of the hands, the grace in the faces of the deities, that the vision of the creator comes through.
Bare earth –
laboured hands, each crease a story,
each movement heavy with purpose
yet free, flowing
The riotous celebrations of the Durga Puja, much awaited, see the deities in their full glory, for that short while before they are given back to Nature. Their immersion into the river too is celebrated, it signifies the cycle of life. Shaped from the earth, they are absorbed back by the earth - and then the process starts again.