Her name is Durga. Mother of four, rider of a lion and destroyer of demons. No big deal. Each year she visits my city, Kolkata. And that is perhaps the biggest festival in a country where folks only need the slightest of reasons to celebrate. We worship her for four straight days, following elaborate rituals, spanning over the entire day, and the city remains sleepless the entire time. She appears in the form of clay idols which vary in sizes - anywhere between 2 - 20 feet in height. She’s worshipped in households, and community “pandals” or makeshift abodes. And these pandals are usually built incorporating ultra creative themes, where the organizers make an attempt to address social/environmental issues or depict abstract narratives ranging from spirituality, women empowerment, transgender rights to globalization. There’s a competitive aspect to all of this, with multiple awards and honors handed out every year based on who had the best idol, theme or pandal.
These idols are built by a community of clay artists of the Kumortuli neighborhood in North Kolkata, who have been doing this for generations.
With the next Durga Puja just around the corner, I’ll take your through a visual journey over the next few posts, revisiting this neighborhood which is close to every Bengali heart.
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