The makers of the Gods – Kumartuli, Kolkata

September is here and along with it, the Kolkata sky and the wind becomes the harbinger of the best time of the year for us, Bongs – Durga Puja. With each passing week in September, you will find the pandals are being constructed around the city and everyone is preparing to welcome Mother Goddess.
So with just over a month left for the celebrations and the looming uncertainties of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic ready to spoil the fervor once again, I woke up this Sunday with a pretty unusual resolve – to take my six year old mini Monkey to see how his favorite Gods are “made”.
For the innocent minds of the little ones, the Gods are not the sacrosanct pillars of our religious beliefs but more of a part of the family which celebrates these homecomings as reunions. So what you will see next, as you read on, is a photo-story of Kumartuli through the eyes of a six year old boy and an image to start this reminiscence.


The bylanes where Gods are made

Kumartuli’s historical lineage goes back to the early British era of colonization of Bengal where specific quarters/settlements were designated for the “natives” of different profession. “Kumor” meaning potter, so Kumortuli or Kumartuli became the settlement of the potters around the then city of Kolkata. Today, just beyond the busy, serpentine streets of Sovabazar and Chitpur in North Kolkata, lies Kumartuli. Specifically, Banamali Sarkar Street is the home that gets thronged by travellers and locals alike, all eager to get a glimpse of the magic that happens in the by-lanes of North Kolkata.


Colors of the colorless lives

Covid-19 pandemic had struck a huge blow to these potters, for whom Durga Puja remains the single major occasion to earn their livelihood and that impact still could be seen in those lanes. But it’s the spirit of these unnamed souls who still create magic with their hands – pandemic times or not. Entering Banamali Sarkar Street, my kiddo was literally awestruck to find his favorite God idols, right and left and in every corner. These ones below, sparked the series of questions that only a six year old can have. 🙂

Since Durga Puja is still 36 days away from now and Ganesh Chaturthi is knocking the doors, so he was equally ecstatic to see his friendly Elephant God Ganesh all around! As we moved from one by-lanes to another, the place was buzzing with photographers, capturing each and every movement of the artisans and often almost jumping over their shoulders, much to the displeasure of the artisans. With a kiddo by my side, I kept a distance and saw the spectacle unfolding. Now I will let the images do the talking.

The entire place was so full of colors with each idol at different degree of completion. Some where we found the bamboo frames were being made, some where clay shapes were being added, some where else, paintings of the face were done and then some places, it was the sound of machine paints being applied. Surreal, yet so much pleasing to the eyes.

The other thing which I noticed this time around was the presence of female artisans doing clay and paint work, hand-in-hand with their male counterparts.

However the highlight of the day was this last image of an old man (see above), skillfully and patiently handling the face work of Maa Durga with his fingers. There were a bunch of over-enthusiastic photographers, jumping over his shoulder but the man was oblivious and almost in trance, as he worked out the eye-brows of Maa Durga. Once done, he turned around and then gave a good bashing to those. This one aspect still remains disturbing, even after so much awareness in social media circles to keep distance and not bother the artisans in their work.

However the highlight of the dat was this last image of an old man (see above), skillfully and patiently handling the face work of Maa Durga with his fingers. There were a bunch of over-enthusiastic photographers, jumping over his shoulder but the man was oblivious and almost in trance, as he worked out the eye-brows of Maa Durga. Once done, he turned around and then gave a good hearing to those. This one aspect still remains disturbing, even after so much awareness in social media circles to keep distance and not bother the artisans in their work.

My mini Monkey was patient, holding my hand, stood at a distance and infinitely curious to see the rugged and over-toiled hands of these artisans creating magic.

It was a memorable Sunday, though spending less than an hour in this place, yet probably my mini-Monkey’s best time in this entire pandemic lockdown period.

P.S: Now that we are fully vaccinated, so Honumans Travel stories will soon be live from the roads. 😉

Pro Tip 1: Don’t venture to this place on a week day – actually only try on Sundays
Pro Tip 2: Park your self driven vehicles on Madanmohan Tala Street (to the right of Rabindra Sarani, just after crossing Banamali Sarkar Street) and walk back few hundred meters.

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