Idolmakers on the move

Aindrila Paul

Chennai , Sept 21 : Generations of idol makers migrate annually to Chennai from Kolkata for  Durga Puja business around this time of the year.  But they do not restrict themselves to making just Durga idols; they also make idols for Ganesh Chaturthi , Saraswati Puja and Navaratri. These idols are then sent to Coimbatore , Kochi and Neyveli and even to the US.

unfinished Durga idol at T Nagar

Amit Kumar Pal, 53, from Hooghly is in a hurry to put finishing touches to the 19 idols of Goddess Durga he is making this year at his workstation at T Nagar.

“Back in 1995 when I first came here, you would hardly  see one or two Durga Puja pandals around the corner , but now there are almost 17 major pandals around the city,” said Pal . Flipping through his cash memo , he continued “ only yesterday I sold two Navaratri idols for Rs 40,000 each , one is for Pondy Bazar and other for Chicago. ”

Everything including the Godess’s jewellery, hair, clothes and even the clay is sourced from West Bengal .The base structure of the idol is made with soil from Chennai while the rest of the clay comes from the fertile banks of the Ganga.  Organic water colour instead of chemical based paint is used by some if not all idolmakers.

 

“I am teaching my sons the tools of the trade, even if they don’t come into this profession , the art of idol making shouldn’t be lost in the family, ” said Pal , when asked if he envisions the same future for his children .

Pal hails from a long line of potters and idol makers from Bengal. He isn’t the only one.

Kishori Mohan Pal , 56 , has been coming down to Chennai with his two sons for the past 36 years . This year alone the family has made close to 35 idols.

“It’s hard to leave Kolkata behind specially during this time of the year , but then again after all these years , Chennai feels like home ,” said Kishori Mohan Pal.

 

This year, Durga Puja begins on September 26 and will continue for five days .