In Kumartuli, Durga idol-makers, online influencers get busy ahead of Puja season

In Kumartuli, Durga idol-makers, online influencers get busy ahead of Puja season

Idol-maker Indrajit Pal posing with one of his creations. 

Idol-maker Indrajit Pal posing with one of his creations. 
| Photo Credit: Bishwanath Ghosh

As Kumartuli gears up to deliver Durga idols to hundreds of pandals across Kolkata, social media influencers are also on the upswing in the potters’ colony

Amid the bustle that Kumartuli is at the moment, Kaushik Ghosh is a picture of calm in this riverside settlement of idol-makers in north Kolkata where artisans are hurrying to meet deadlines and social media-users are crowding their workshops to pose for cameras.

Mr. Ghosh makes only fibre-glass Durga idols that are sent abroad and he has already shipped his creations. This year, he has made 37 sets of idols — the highest he has ever made — and they are all only their way to different parts of the world: China, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa, United Kingdom, Dubai.

“In fact, I won’t even be here during Durga Puja. I am off to London two days later. There are about 45 pujas held in the UK, and idols for at least 30 of them have been sent by me. So, I have been invited by them to participate in the celebrations. I am looking forward to the carnival along the Thames,” he tells The Hindu as he watches with amusement hordes of selfie-takers barge into Kumartuli, much to the irritation of fellow artisans who have no time to lose.

Indrajit Pal is sitting in his tiny but airconditioned office in a narrow lane; he took orders for 11 sets of idols this year and they all need to be given finishing touches.

“These people who are coming in to make Instagram and Facebook reels, they are a nuisance as well as a blessing. While on the one hand they cause disturbance, on the other hand they are also popularising Kumartuli. This place as well as our profession need to be more popular,” says Mr. Pal, whose only child, Hrittika, is a software engineer.

According to him, and many other artisans, even though business in Kumartuli has improved from the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the profits have effectively been restored only to the pre-pandemic days while prices of raw material have gone up drastically.

“A set of idols that sold for, say, ₹80,000 in 2019 should have been selling for ₹1.2 to 1.5 lakh this year. But the price dropped to ₹60,000 during the pandemic and has now climbed back to ₹80,000, maybe a little more. So, we haven’t gained much, but things seem to be looking up slowly,” he says.

China Pal, the only woman in Kumartuli in the idol-making business, will not reveal the number of idols she is working on this year — it is a trade secret for her — but she says business has been good — “as good as last year”.

Ms. Pal hardly has the time to talk: her workers want her attention, journalists from outside Kolkata want her quotes, while her customers are calling to find out when they can come to collect their set of Durga idols. “One thing new for me this year is that I’ve made the idols for a pandal in New Town where the puja will be conducted by women,” she says.

By this weekend, most idols would reach the neighbourhoods they are meant for and the bustle that is Kumartuli will shift to different corners of Kolkata. Only that the bustle will assume a different name: celebration.

#Kumartuli #Durga #idolmakers #online #influencers #busy #ahead #Puja #season