It is now the the busiest part of Kolkata, with work on 24×7. Two weeks from now Durga Puja will start, and Kumortuli is now bustling to prepare for Bengal’s biggest festival.
Located in the Northern part of Kolkata, Kumortuli is where potters make the idols of the Hindu Goddess Durga. It is said that during the British era, areas in Calcutta were occupied according to profession, and as potters stayed to make idols here, it came to be known as Kumortuli.
As one enters Kumortuli, it’s clear that the Durga Puja mood is in full swing. Even though it’s raining, the potters are not swayed – they make do with tarpaulin and fans – and continue their work.
Giving final touches to Ma Durga’s face, potter Samil Pal (50) is seen working with great concentration. “I am giving the final shape to her face now. The last two years were a nightmare because of coronavirus. Many people did not do pujo and we did not get orders, but this year it is better,” he told News18.
But the weather this year has made Pal’s job tougher. “We are now working till midnight. This year, the weather is a big problem; it’s raining and we are putting tarpaulin and trying to dry the idol with fans. But even amid all this the old-time excitement of pujo is back, as we are out of the pandemic. Ma will make us happy.”
Orders are high this year, as potters gruel in tough surroundings to make it work. But relief to be out from the thick of the pandemic seems to take precedence over everything else. “See, we will fight rain, but nothing has been a curse on us like coronavirus. This year UNESCO has put our Durga Pujo in heritage identity, and since Kumortuli is a very important part of the festival, we are very happy,” potter Apurba Pal told News18 while drawing the eyes of an idol of the Hindu demon Mahishasur.
In December 2021, UNESCO had included ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ on the ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.
And now after two years, as Kumortuli is steeped in the old flavour of festivities, everyone is ready to work around the clock. Orders for idols have also been placed from foreign countries, with the international branding UNESCO’s tag has provided.
Amidst the buzz, Director of American Centre Adrian Patt, was spotted at the busy streets of Kumortuli with his wife Amy. “It is quite a magical place filled with the most talented artists – one after another after another until you truly get a sense of just how important and massive the Durga Puja celebrations are. It is breathtaking,” Adrian said, his gaze mesmerised with the sight.
But it’s not just Adrian, people from around the world have long wanted to witness the idol-making in its glory. Australian diplomat Brett Galt Smith, also visiting the area, told News18 that while he had come due to work, “it was mesmerising” and that he would want to stay here during the Puja.
And as the place comes to life in its true sense after a hiatus of two years, people wanting to document the work and art are also back. Kolkata Pandal hoppers, bloggers, photographers have begun visiting the area.
Susmita, a visitor, came to Kumortuli to ‘get the pujo feeling’. “The puja feeling is there so we came here to see how final touches are being given and also wanted to click photographs,” she said.
But for some others, visiting Kumortuli is how they start their Durga Pujo festivities. “We actually come and see how idol-making takes place, every year. That’s how we start our pujo,” Moumita Biswas and her partner Subhasish Biswas told News18.
The journey has begun. Even as visitors come and go, Kumortuli will stay alive – until Ma Durga starts her journey from the area to various pandals. For the potters, it’s a happy moment, for they are consolidated in the belief that it is their goddess who has killed the ‘corona demon’ and returned the festivities.