Breathing Life Into the Goddess: The Anatomy of a Durga Idol

Every aspect of Durga Pujo is steeped in tradition. How many of these facts did you know?

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(This article was first published on 27 September 2017. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the beginning of Navratri.)

Lights, camera, festivity!

Durga Pujo is round the corner. Pandal-hoppers will teem the streets and the smell of chicken rolls and biryani will waft through the air as a thousand cameras are ready to click furiously everywhere you look.

Pujo is here!
Pujo is here!
(GIF: The Quint)

Kodak cameras may have given way to mobile selfies, but there is so much about Pujo that stays the same. Year after year after year. Or as we say in Bengali, “Aashche bochor, abaar hobe!”

Timeless Traditions

Every step of making the idol is steeped in tradition.

First, the straw structure of the idol or the kathamo is prepared.

It is on the day of the Rath Yatra that mud is first applied on the straw structure. The mud is sourced from the banks of the Ganga.
The mud for the structure of the idol is sourced from the banks of the Ganga.
The mud for the structure of the idol is sourced from the banks of the Ganga.
(Photo: Reuters)

Then comes the Saaj or the ornamentation of the goddess. There are two kinds of saaj – Sholar saaj and Daaker saaj.

During the Sholar saaj, the idol is decorated with the white core of the shola reed that grows in marshlands.

The Daaker saaj, on the other hand, has a fascinating origin story. Wealthy devotees of Ma Durga would use silver to decorate the goddess. Some of this silver foil would be imported from faraway Germany, by post. The tradition, thus, gets its name from the Bengali word for post, daak.

The Saaj is when the goddess is decked up.
The Saaj is when the goddess is decked up.
(Photo: Reuters)

Painting Life Into Ma Durga

Ma Durga is painted a flowery yellow in the shade of the shiuli or jasmine. The jasmine blooms in autumn, the season of Ma’s homecoming.

The eyes are painted last.

The eyes are painted last.
The eyes are painted last.
(GIF: The Quint)

The Chokkhudaan, when Ma Durga gets her eyes, takes place on the day of Mahalaya, a week before the festival.

It is believed that this is when the goddess comes to life and begins her journey from heaven to earth so she can bring happiness to her devotees.

So how many of these festival facts did you know? Tell us in the comments below and share this with your Pujo-loving friends!

Video editor: Purnendu Pritam

(This story was originally published on 27 September 2017. It has been republished for the occasion of Mahalaya.)

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