With the biggest religious festival of Hinduism just around the corner, the skilled craftsmen of Chittagong are hard at work making clay idols of Goddess Durga.
Chittagong has a total of 12 idol-making workshops, or "Pratimalay", located in the Patharghata Gangabari, Dewanji Pukur Lane, Nittyanando Dham, Sadarghat Kalibari, Bosh Goli, Hazari Lane and Nalapara areas of the port city.
During a recent visit to the different workshops, this correspondent saw the craftsmen putting the finishing touches to the idols ahead of Durga Puja, which will be observed at 233 mandaps (pavilions) in Chittagong city on September 26-30.
“The artisans are from families who have practised this art for many generations,” said Sujan Paul, the owner of Dulal Paul Pratimalay in the Sadarghat area, the oldest idol-making workshop in the port city.
“My grandfather, Hori Narayal Paul, was the most renowned artisan of this region while my father set up the idol-making factory during the 1960s.”
Sujan told the Dhaka Tribune that he had been involved in the profession for the last 15 years and was working overtime to fulfill orders for 45 sets of idols.
“It naturally takes a little more time to make images with artistic decoration and design. We can complete an ordinary set of figures within a week,” he said, adding that the prices range from Tk20,000 to Tk70,000 depending on the size, design, detail and accessories.
The artisans in Sadarghat area said the demand for ready-made “oriental” figures is gaining popularity among the devotees, as the traditional installation is comparatively expensive because of the special jewelry, attire and other accessories.
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Basudeb Pal, proprietor of Nataraj Shilpalay, has been building images of Hindu gods and goddesses for the last 46 years.
“Crafting images is a physically and mentally demanding job. Therefore, the young generation does not feel interested in taking this up as a profession and not even my son has followed in his father’s footsteps,” the sexagenarian artisan said.
“Nowadays, people prefer statues with artistic decoration for Durga Puja. We should pay due attention to the sanctity and solemnity associated with the auspicious occasion.”
The craftsman said the idols are usually made from straw and bamboo and then plastered with several layers of clay and mud. The images are then coloured and the master artisans paint the eyes of the idols, which is better known as Chakkhudan, symbolising the gods inhabiting the figures.
The figures are then decorated in oriental attire, jewellery, flowers and other paraphernalia before they are finally completed with a decorated arched backdrop embellished with traditional drawings.
Each installation usually comprises the Goddess Durga, venerated as the mother of the universe, astride a lion killing the buffalo demon Mahesha and flanked by her four children: Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik, and Ganesha.