Origin: Kumartuli, a neighborhood in Kolkata, occupies a very significant place in the history of Indian handicrafts. This artistic location has a strong relationship with Durga Puja as it is home to the tradition of clay idol-making.
The name Kumortuli is born from the Bengali word kumore meaning artisans working with metals. Thus, the name Kumartuli spells the land where kumars reside.
Legend has it that these talented artisans are descendants of craftsmen who crafted images of Durga for Maharaja Krishna Chandra of Krishnanagar. Some historians articulate that these artisans were potters who shifted base to Kumortuli during British kingdom.
According to another historic tale, Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s caravan carried Pals to Calcutta. To honour the victory of British in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, he wished to celebrate Durga Puja. Oral history states that he summoned a young Pal from Krishnanagar to create the clay idol for puja. However, these artisans were not comfortable travelling from Krishnanagar and requested for a permanent address in Calcutta.
Present Day: Even today, the enthralling historic quarter of Kumartuli is buzzing with the artistic community who work as the catalyst for this centuries-old craft. Around 400 artisans reside in Kumartuli
Over the years, the style of the idols has progressed. Initially, single platform decorated with chalchitra as the background was used to cast images. This pattern was broken in 1932 by elite craftsman Gopeshwar Pal.
In addition to supplying, these divine idols for Indian festivals, the artisans also export them to about 90 countries. One of the most talented and famed veterans of Kumartuli is Ramesh Chandra Pal.
The mesmerizing work of artisans has ensured that Kumortuli is an attractive destination for photographers. However, earlier tourist and photographers were more respectful and would not disturb the craftsmen. Now, they simply breeze in the workshops sometimes breaking off the pieces.
The painstaking task of crafting idols is a seasonal job. Thus, to earn their bread and butter, for the rest of the year, craftsmen indulge in creating statues of famous personalities.
Procedure: The process of idol making can be dropped in three frameworks namely: using bamboo to make the framework. Dried straw twining are also used to lend the shape of the structure. The next step is making of the clay images and painting them. Last step includes, decorating them.
Bring Home the Idol Making Craft of Bengal: Walk around the by lanes of Bengal and you’ll be greeted by these artistic idols.