Gobinda Nath, a sculptor from West Bengal's Falta in 24 Parganas district, is absorbed as he very lovingly gives the final brush strokes to a seven-feet-high clay idol of Durga in a large makeshift shed in Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi, which has over a dozen Durga Puja pandals in its neighbourhood.
"We have been working on these idols for three months. We got all our material for making the idols from West Bengal, including the clay, the goddess' ornaments, her weapons, everything. Except for the bamboo used in the frame for the idols, everything else is from West Bengal," Nath, in his 40s, told IANS.
For Nath and many families in his village idol making is an age-old tradition passed on from generations. Helping him create the 32 idols at the tent were 12 artisans from Bengal.
The artisans are making the idols of Durga and her four children - Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, Kartikeya. Of the 32 idols commissioned this year, only four are "ekchala" - or with all the idols together in one frame.
"The remaining idols are all separate. We are increasingly getting orders for separate idols as puja samitis want to add more grandeur to the idols," said Nath.
An idol of goddess Durga getting ready for her journey
To make the colours used on the idols more natural and eco friendly, the artisans have used 'khori mati" or dry coloured clay with powdered tamarind seeds, which acts as a glue.
With Durga Puja beginning from Oct 10, or sasthi according to the Hindu calendar, the different puja samitis were busy in the process of transporting the idols to their respective marquees - by no means an easy task.
"You don't want her (Durga) to get hurt. You want her to reach safely. And it is not an easy job. It is an art that one masters over the years," said Nath, who has with a mother's caring watchfulness overseen countless such journeys of the idol.
"Transporting these heavy idols to respective puja pandals is the most difficult job and has to be done with utmost care and logical reasoning," Niranjan Pal, another artisan from Kakardwip in West Bengal, said. The artisans, however, refused to divulge how much each idol costs. For these artisans, idol making during Durga Puja is a major source of income.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children descends to the earth each year to visit her 'parents home' to slay the demon Mahisasura, the epitome of evil, and her victory is celebrated as an ode to Durga in the form of Durga Puja. The four-day celebrations end with the immersion of the idols on Dussehra.
The festival is also a celebration of woman power.
With enthusiastic chants of "Bolo Bolo Durga Mai ki Jai", puja samiti members come to collect their durga idols from the artisans.
With cries of "kheencho" (pull), "chalo" (come on), a group of 20 people grapple with the heavy idols, carrying it carefully on their shoulders to the waiting truck.
"Maa is coming home" said one enthusiastic devotee as he joined his colleagues in shouldering the load of the idol with utmost care.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 09-10-2013)