There’s a decided nip in the air; it’s that time of the year again. The season of mellow fruitfulness and a soon-to-be-upon-us divine presence. The markets are teeming with eager, overenthusiastic last-minute shoppers. The narrow by-lanes are choc-a-bloc with shops of sweets, bright clothes and colourful knick-knacks.
Bengal is in a breathless frenzy to welcome its beloved daughter, Durga, to her maternal home.
The ten-armed goddess, astride her lion, fights the demon, Mahishasura. She is coming with her offspring – Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, Ganesh, the God of Fortune and Kartik, the God of War – to thousands of pandals around the city.
In Kumartuli human hands give birth and shape to the divine. The narrow lanes are flooded with mud figures, and a bevy of artists bring them to life. The rotund Ganesh, the kingly Kartik, the enthralling goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati and above all Durga, jostle for space.
The wooden sticks tied with hay form the skeleton while the mud forms the flesh. The paints are lovingly applied with graceful brush strokes. The sari is draped. Gold paper jewellery and weapons adorn the graceful figures – at once according them a magical luminiscence. Behold! Goddess Durga has arrived!
It’s time again – for religion, art and business to blend together. Revellers and late night shoppers will once again roam the streets. Neighbourhoods will wake to the roll of the dhak, the city will be lit up with neon lights, and the smell of the pujas will fill the air. The city will celebrate, all over again.
These images will soon find their way to the theme-decorated pandals – and will be revered by millions of devout worshippers. Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Shakti rupen sansthita, namastasye namastasye namastasye namo namah!
This short write-up and two-minute film on Kumartuli are by 17-year-old Mahima Varma. Last month she had organised an exhibition at the ICCR of 200 photographs by 50 photographers paying tribute to Kolkata. Her 10-minute film, ‘Kolkata My Heartbeat’ was also screened at the event. It will be officially released by Saregama before the Pujas. The film is essentially a vibrant collage of the different facets of a city brimming with life.
The funds raised from the sale of photographs were handed to the Calcutta Foundation for its movement, Girls for Tomorrow, co-founded by Mahima.