“KUMARTULI” or “KUMORTULI” which means in Bengali the Potter and Tuli, the painting brush with which the Potter creates the magic.

Situated at the banks of Hoogly, Kumartuli is a century-old neighborhood in North Kolkata, about a Kilometre from Sobhabazar Metro Station, in existence for more than 300 years for crafting clay idols for deities with innovative designs and marvelous quality. This is perhaps the home to the finest clay artisans in India. This makes the place the most sought after location for photography enthusiastic who keep hopping here a couple of months before the Pujas.

It is of paramount importance to know the history of Kumatuli, as stated earlier the history of Kumartuli goes back to 300 years. To have a better livelihood, a few Potters migrated to Kolkata from Krishnanagar. They were first hired by then Raja Nabkrishna Dev to build a Durga Idol to commemorate the worship of the deity. This made the beginning of many Zamindar households hiring the potters for the making of idols. After the decline of the Zamindari system in the 20th century, community Puja took the interest of people, therefore creating huge opportunities for the potters.

Kumartuli is thronged with many workshops, most of them being rickety and dingy lined with rows of idols on either side. The entire stretch of Kumartuli is made of straw roofs with tarpaulin covers to protect the workshops from possible rains, which is quite natural during such seasons. The workers live, cook, and sleep inside the same workshops. As the festival approaches the artisans work round the clock to meet the deadlines.

Durga Puja is the grandest of all festivals in West Bengal. The much talked about autumn festival starts with Mahalaya, marking the advent of ” Devi Paksha” and the day of ” Chokkhudaan ” when the most artisan draws the eyes of the goddess. This is the most auspicious day and the artisans either remain on fast or take a vegetarian diet before the ” Chokkhudaan”. The main Puja starts on the sixth day of Navaratri called Maha Saptami with bodhan ( awakening of God ) and continues for three days, namely Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Maha Navami. The last day, Vijaya Dashami is the farewell day when the Goddess is bid adieu and the Idol is immersed in the Ganges.

With the onslaught of COVID for the past couple of months in the country, and life turning upside down with the ever-increasing number of cases each passing day at an alarming rate, there seems to be a big question mark whether the celebrations could reach the grandiose. With all possibilities of subdued pujas looming large, there seems to be a huge fall in demand of Idols. This being a seasonal trade, and with fewer footfalls already at “Kumartuli” and other parts of similar Idol makers across the country, a pathetic condition insight for these poor traditional artisans…..God bless them with better luck …