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In pics: 4 utmost elements for the preparation of Durga idol

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Kolkata, Sep 14: Perhaps everyone counting the days for the biggest festival of the year, Durga Puja. Every religions and their rituals are sacred. Some have mythological explanations others exist only because there has been an age-old practice and belief. Among them is the famous yet unexplained practice of using soil from the land of sex-workers to prepare Durga Idols in Kolkata.

Durga idol

Durga idol

Sex-workers, all through their lives they are attributed with slangs, but during Durga puja, individuals throng at their doorsteps with polite smiles begging for some land from their land.

According to Hindu rituals, for the preparation of Durga idol, four things are of utmost importance- mud from the banks of the Ganga, cow urine, cow dung and soil from a prostitute's land or Nishiddho Pallis (forbidden terrorities).

Durga idol making

Durga idol making

Mixing all these together constitutes the sacred idol of Goddess Durga, it is believed that without the sand from a prostitutes' land, the idol of ‘Maa Durga' is considered incomplete.

This is one of the ancient tradition has been practiced for years in Bengal, but no one knows the exact reason why it started. Even in some movies also we have seen portrayal of this practice.

An artisan painting the Durga idol at Kumortuli

An artisan painting the Durga idol at Kumortuli

The Durga (protima) or idols of countless rows of semi-finished idols are placed across the narrow bylanes of north Kolkata's Kumortuli. Kumortuli is the biggest hub of clay image making of the City of joy, which has played host to generations after generations of (kumors) or the potters and (mritshilpis) the clay sculptors.

Durga idol at Kumortuli

Durga idol at Kumortuli

Durga Pujas transformed from simple home pujas to the large-scale festival we see now.

The sculptors usually start the process of making the idols with Pata Puja on the day of the Rath Yatra.

The first stage of the process involves the creation of a bamboo frame for all the seven figures (Durga, her lion, Mahishasura, Saraswati and her swan, Lakshmi and her owl, Ganesha and his mouse, and Kartik and his peacock). This skeletal frame is filled with (khar) or hay to give volume, which also ensures that the idols are not too heavy. After the hay filling, there comes a layer of thick sticky clay to give shape to the figures.

Durga idol during the drying process after applying chalk paint

Durga idol during the drying process after applying chalk paint

After this layer dries, in the second stage another layer of clay is applied to carve the body. For the face and hands, jute fibres are diligently kneaded into the clay to make it sturdy yet pliable.

Durga idol making process of eye painting

Durga idol making process of eye painting

In the third stage, the special moulding clay forms. Most sculptors use moulds for the face and hands to maintain quality and uniformity.

Each stages takes time to dry, and once the clay dries, the final touch is given. The figures are covered in white "chalk paint and tamarind seed gum, which forms the binding for different colours in which they are painted, the adding on of the hair, clothing, ornaments and weapons to the figures, and the painting of the background frames supporting them.

The ‘Chokkhodaan’ during Mahalaya

The ‘Chokkhodaan’ during Mahalaya

And, the process reach the final stage in the painting of the eyes of the central figure of Durga, marking the symbolic bringing to life of the icon or invoking the deity-a ritual called (Chokkhodaan) that is most effectively carried out on the morning of Mahalaya.

When the Durga idol making is completed

When the Durga idol making is completed

Thus, the great artisans work throughout the year for the final day, deserving appreciation for their craftsmanship.

Image courtesy: Parthasarathi Roy

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