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The idol sculptors of Kumartuli The potters' neighborhood in Kumartuli, in the north of Calcutta, is the fulcrum of the religious life of the Hindus. The sculptors there carry on a very old tradition: the crafting of effigies of the divinities for the end-of-year religious celebrations, the pujas. A Photo story by Bruno Perousse / LightMediation


2634-04: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 email: thierry@lightmediation.com


2634-01: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DES SCULPTEURS DE KUMARTULI, COMMERCE D'OBJETS DE DECORATION POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE

2634-02: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DES SCULPTEURS DE KUMARTULI, MANUTENTIONNAIRES EMPLOYES POUR LES TRANSPORTS DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-03: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-04: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-05: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-06: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-07: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-08: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-05: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-09: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-10: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-11: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-12: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-13: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-14: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-15: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-16: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-51: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. UNE STATUE DE LA DEESSE DURGA A ETE INSTALLEE SOUS LE PANDAL (UNE STRUCTURE PROVISOIRE) POUR ETRE PRESENTEE AU PUBLIC PENDANT LES QUATRE JOURS DES FESTIVITES


2634-17: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-18: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-19: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-20: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES


2634-21: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES

2634-22: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-23: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-24: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES


2634-26: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. LE DERNIER JOUR DE LA DURGA PUJA, LES STATUES DE LA DEESSE DURGA SONT IMMERGEES DANS LA RIVIERE HOOGLY, AFFLUENT DU GANGE


2634-25: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES

2634-26: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-27: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-28: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, LIEU DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES


2634-29: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-30: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-64: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DES SCULPTEURS DE KUMARTULI, COMMERCE D'OBJETS DE DECORATION POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE

2634-32: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-67: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-33: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-34: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-35: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-36: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-37: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-38: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE

2634-39: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-40: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-31: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-41: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE ULTADANGA. FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. PANDAL DE

2634-42: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE

2634-43: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KALIGHAT. FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. UNE STATUE DE LA

2634-44: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER SUD. FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. UNE STATUE DE LA DEESSE DURGA A ETE


2634-45: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-46: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-47: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-48: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES


2634-58: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE. TERMINEES, LES STATUES SONT TRANSPORTEES DANS LES FAMILLES OU VERS LES PANDALS, LE LIEU D'EXPOSITION PENDANT LES FESTIVITES


2634-49: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-50: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES

2634-51: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE

2634-52: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE


2634-53: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE

2634-54: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE SOBHA BAZAR, MITOYEN DU QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE

2634-55: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-56: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES


2634-06: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


2634-57: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-58: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-59: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-60: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES


2634-61: INDE, ETAT DU BENGALE OCCIDENTAL, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA), QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT FABRIQUEES LES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES

2634-62: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, OU SONT SITUES LES ATELIERS DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES

2634-63: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET

2634-65: QUARTIER DES SCULPTEURS DE KUMARTULI, EXTRACTION DE LA TERRE GLAISE SERVANT A LA REALISATION DES STRATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES


2634-66: INDE, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) QUARTIER DE KUMARTULI, ATELIER DE FABRICATION DES STATUES DE DIVINITES POUR LES FETES RELIGIEUSES (PUJAS) D'OCTOBRE ET NOVEMBRE


The idol sculptors of Kumartuli "Bolo Durga mai ki jai", "Glory be to Mother Durga". With these words, the immense statue of the goddess with ten arms tips over into the purifying waters of the Hooghly River. Immobile, she bobs a short while, then, carried along by the strong current, she will join hundreds of other Durga offered to the upstream stretch of the river. On the steps of the ghat, the crowd becomes dense. Processions from all the neighborhoods of Calcutta converge in exuberant groups, intoxicated by the music and the incense. The heat is stifling, only just tempered by a breeze from the river. Some groups carry their statue in their arms, but the most voluminous arrive in trucks and are quickly unloaded. At each instant, the bearers risk losing their footing. On the stairs leading down to the riverbank, their legs give way on the steps made slippery with squashed flowers. It's a gigantesque confused mass. "Durga, Durga", the woman in trances weep as they caress the divinity's face, like a loved one they are about to lose. The last prayers, the last offerings and the last wreaths of jasmine: the moment has come to part with the effigy. On the sacred river's banks, they twirl her three times before the great plunge and her final journey, buoyed by the waves. They console themselves with "aaschhe bochhor abar hobe", "it will happen again next year", and they leave, singing and dancing with renewed vigor to the sound

of the drums and flutes, under the vigilant eye of the police keeping watch over the festival at its height.

potters' neighborhood of Kumartuli.

The sky is sultry above this tributary of the Ganges and darkness starts to fall over Calcutta.

The village of the Kumars

It's late in the afternoon of Dashami, the last of the five days of the Durga Puja, the festival of offerings and adoration of Durga in commemoration of her victory over the demons. The immersion ceremony brings to an end the most important of the Hindu festivities that take place in eastern India. It is timed to coincide with the new moon in the month of Ashvina (the sixth month in the Bengali calendar, which corresponds to September or October). Observed throughout the country, it is in the capital of West Bengal where this puja is the most lavishly celebrated.

The next morning, the riverbanks display a scene of desolation. Dozens of statues have washed up on the muddy shores. They no longer have the vividness of the day before; the faces are eroding, the members dislocated. A hand rises out of the water, like a periscope out of nowhere. Further away, you can see the head of the lion that Durga traditionally straddles. Chains of wilted flowers cling to a trident.

Soon nothing will remain. The effigies, made of gray clay from the river, will return to their origin. A symbol of eternal renewal, they disappear into the riverbed, the very spot where they were born: on the banks of the river, where the craftsmen come to get the clay needed to make the idols. Very rich and supple clay, cut up into fat slabs and taken in handcarts a few streets away to the

In the north of the city, Kumartuli is a speck of dust compared to the whole of Calcutta and its fifteen million inhabitants. A modest neighborhood far from the wealthy suburbs where air-conditioned shopping malls and luxury car dealers have sprung up, symbols of economic development: just a few narrow and crowded lanes, squeezed between the Hoogly river and the working class streets of the Shoba Bazar. The place gets its name from the Kumars, the caste of potters established there for centuries because of its proximity to the river where they get the raw materials for their creations, originally cooking utensils. 250 to 300 traditional sculptors live here. As time passed, they started to specialize in the making of the idols used in all the religious festivals. It's evident that the neighborhood has not been subject to any town planning. From the few tarmac lanes diverge many dirt alleys, passageways and dead-ends which quickly become impassable in a storm. Sheds, narrow corridors and grimy cubbyholes crammed on top of each other and joined by bamboo ladders serve as both housing and workshops. Tangles of rusty scaffolding, old cracked statues lying in the corners, a few grocery stores and many shops specializing in the accessories that ornament the goddesses complete the scene. We have a hard time believing that from these dark, cramped and poorly ventilated spaces come the statues that sometimes

measure three meters high. Nonetheless, from generation to generation, the artists here mass-produce the effigies of the gods. Often sitting right on the floor and simply dressed in a dhoti, the traditional cotton loincloth, they untiringly repeat the same gestures of this ancestral art to put life into the idols.

The birth of a Durga

First, an armature of recuperated wood and bamboo prefigures the general shape of the intended sculpture. On this skeleton, bunches of straw give consistency to the arms, legs and body. Then comes the application of the clay in three layers, the last done with finer clay free of any impurities. Under the expert hands, the bodies and faces are fashioned. After the drying and application of a final coating, the painters go into action. Most often the base coat is green, yellow or pink, the favorite colors. The parts of the body that will be clothed are not painted. For the face and hands, the brushstroke is precise, the lines assured. No detail is lacking, all meticulously painted. The complexions are bright, the lips very red, pastels have no part in it. After the paint, they put on hair, more than life-like, hats and dress the statues in colorful, shimmering saris. Then come the diverse ornaments, jewelry, gems, fakes of course, and the multiple accessories. For Durga, with her ten arms, there is no shortage: the bow and arrow, the conch shell, the trident, the sword and shield amongst others, the Hindu canons of the day are respected. The work is split up: to each his specialty,


lighting lengthens the frightful shadows of these ghostly troops who threaten the late passer-by. according to his capabilities. To the beginner goes the thankless task of cutting all day long the pieces of bamboo for the armatures, the most skillful artists keeping for themselves the drawing of the eyes, the operation called "chokhhu daan". Once completed, the most beautiful effigies are veritable works of art that will sell for a fortune.

Languid in springtime, Kumartuli sees its activities increase with the approach of the big religious festivals in autumn. For weeks the orders come in from throughout India and also from abroad where Bengali expatriate communities still celebrate Durga. A part of the 12,000 statues made each year will be sent off to more than 90 countries. The workshops fill up; trucks and carts, surrounded by a multitude of coolies, unload by the hundreds statues to be completed. In the sheds, the smallest recess is filled. The workshops are no longer big enough. They may pile them up, arrange them, regroup them, but to no avail: space is lacking and soon an army of gods and goddesses invades the streets, the squares, the intersections. By the end of summer, rows of identical idols lay siege to the village, the entire Hindu pantheon like soldiers before the final battle. Battalions of Durgas face the lines of Karthik goddesses, rows of Lakshmis seem ready to confront a squadron of Ganesh, the god with an elephant's head and potbelly, while in each corner, green and grimacing demons, already conquered, lie abandoned. At night, the magic spreads over the neighborhood now empty of the workers who have left for a few hours of rest. The scant street

In a few days everything will be back to normal. But now the holiday approaches, the nervous bosses add the last finishing touches and the tension peaks. The last coat of varnish has barely dried when already lines of trucks wait in the neighboring streets. The customers are there to take delivery of the masterpieces. Teams of carriers pass each other, hurl abuse, the weakest getting out of the narrow passageways just in time. It needs to be seen, the loading of a statue weighing a few hundred kilos onto the back of a Tata, without the aid of a crane or a forklift.

The pandals The idols are dispatched, carried off by the families who purchased them or divided up into the pandals, a sort of big top made of wood and fabrics, built to exhibit the divinities throughout the holiday. More then 2000 of these short-lived, garishly colored structures with polystyrene dĂŠcors, sometimes quite kitsch, are erected in Calcutta, commissioned by companies, banks, cooperatives and neighborhood associations. They rival each other in imagination and creativity to build the most audacious pandal. The neighborhood or company's reputation depends on it and it could be the occasion to win one of the prizes awarded to the most grandiose pandals. Most often, they are the life-size reproduction of Hindu temples, but you can also see boats, pagodas, castles. No theme is neglected; Egyptian or Nepalese

motifs are highly prized. More innovative, some have taken on environmentalist and climatic themes. In 2007, the neighborhood of Salt Lake City even had a few difficulties with J.K. Rowling's lawyers for having built without authorization a gigantic copy of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter books. Religious holidays par excellence, the pujas are also the occasion for big, popular festivities. A great event in their social life, it is the time when people visit each other, give gifts (often clothing) and prepare special dishes at home. The newspapers publish circuits of the most majestic pandals that adorn the streets of Calcutta and throughout the day and a large part of the night families joyfully jostle about to admire the masterpieces. For hours on end, an unbroken queue tramps before the statues, under the watchful eye of the priests busy collecting the offerings. Around the pandals, lavishly lit up at night, the funfair sets up with its antiquated manually operated merry-go-rounds, its street peddlers and its eateries smelling of fried onion curry.

In Kumartuli, the workers' time off will be short. In three weeks, the Bengalis will celebrate the puja of Kali and the effigies of Durga will give way to rows of the goddess sticking out her tongue, with the enemies' decapitated heads hanging around her neck. She herself will then be replaced by Lakshmi, Vishnu's wife. Eternal renewal...


The idol sculptors of Kumartuli