Durga Puja countdown is on its way and the excitement has set in. It is time for the Durga idol to grace our pandals once more!
Shopping has begun and shops are starting to give discounts and sales. Gariahat is ready to get overcrowded with saree buyers. The paras are ready with their themes. Tailors are having the busiest time of the year. Overall, for a Bengali the best time of the year has arrived.
But the whole festivity is dependent on the fulcrum of the people who make the idols. They are the ones who are the busiest and probably the first ones to start the preparations for the Puja. They have a lot to do – without them we will not have a Durga Puja.
First of all the right clay has to be gathered. Indian rituals are so based on compassion and goodwill that first of all the priest has to collect ‘Punya Maati’ from a prostitute. Mixing this with the clay the idol making starts. The idol maker makes the figure in hay and then the clay is set on it.
The ritual of idol making is a thousand year old art and it has been carried out through generations. For these people, the making of deity idols is not to be considered simply as a job or profession. It is also not an art, as we see those as. If you see well, never has an idol looked ugly or out of place. The reason is creating divine art forms whether it is in sculpture or idols are a revered act in itself. Just like the Buddhist painters, these artists believe that expression of divine art is a reflection of your dedication and the state of your mind. That is why each and every stroke of brush is scared to these idol makers and must be done in awareness.
Kolkata is the nucleus of Durga Puja celebrations thus having the largest concentration of idol artists in the world. NRIs have been recently taking these artists abroad to create idols there.
After the mud layer has set in place, painting starts.
Every colour has a place in the scheme of Durga Puja. While yellow is the body colour of Maa Durga and Goddess Lakshmi, white will be for Goddess Saraswati signifying various facets of symbolism.
Each and every symbol has an underlying meaning and the artist has to be aware of it. The face is generally painted at last and with the most attention.
The idols after being painted have to be then bejeweled and garlanded and set up with the weapons and the saaj, which is the traditional decoration. The sholar saaj is a beautiful and never go old way of decorating Maa Durga. Daker saaj is another traditional way which was started by Shobhabazar royal family to deck it out with silver plates and foils. However with the passage of time, artists have had new ideas and creatively adorned the idols.
The artists put not only effort and dedication, but a lot of personal care into the making of Maa Durga and her family’s idols and the results are evident when we see it finished. No wonder if you see Maa Durga’s face really well, you will see her looking back at you!
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