The talented hands behind Dussehra and Durga Puja festivals

Life, art and the magical efforts of the effigy and idol makers of India


September 20, 2017

/ By , and / New Delhi & Kolkata

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The making of Ravana: Effigy makers of Delhi
Even though the 10-day festival of Dussehra is celebrated illustriously, the efforts of the artists behind the effigies are usually unrecognised.
The huge effigies of Ravana – the demon King with his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnad are intricately designed by the often underappreciated efforts, patience and passion the artists share for their art form. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and one such area where these effigies are made is in the western part of the national capital of India, New Delhi, in the area called Titarpur. Preparations for the festival start at least two months prior in this area.

The preparations spread across the stretch of one kilometre, surrounded by huge bamboo sticks, bundles of brown papers and handmade effigy frames. Working under the banner of ‘Ravan Wale Baba’ – this business has been running successfully for two to three generations.
Despite being a laborious task, the enthusiasm among the fellowmen was palpable. The deft fingers work day and night, however, the tedious job does not suppress the devotion of the devotees. Hundreds of their creations become a part of huge local carnivals that celebrate Dussehra, commonly known as melas where these huge figures are ceremoniously burnt to ashes marking the victory of good over evil.

Mahalaya: The beginning of Durga Puja in Kolkata
Mahalaya marks the auspicious start to Durga Puja, which lasts for 10 days. Traditionally, on this day, the debipaksha (days of the Goddess) starts thus marking the end of the pitripaksha (mourning period). On Mahalaya, the male descendants of the deceased pray to Goddess Durga for redemption of their ancestor’s soul. Legend has it that on this holy day, Goddess Durga starts her journey to earth, her paternal home.
At a time when almost every part of the city of Kolkata in the east Indian state of West Bengal starts revering and praying to Durga, we ventured into the narrow lanes of Kumartuli, the traditional potters’ quarter, tucked away in a busy corner of north Kolkata. This is where the idols are made and thus we found shutterbugs happily clicking away the many unfinished and finished idols of the Goddess.

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