Making of the demon slayer

Hailing from Krishnanagar district in West Bengal, Narugopal Pal has been coming to the city for over 15 years now. He makes this seasonal trip sometime in July to make idols ahead of Durga Puja, which this year begins from October 20 (saptami).

Much like him, many other artisans camp in Chittaranjan Park (CR Park) for over four months, from the time of the Rath Yatra until goddess Kali and lord Kartik are bid adieu and immersed into the Yamuna.

“We stay back till Diwali, which comes after the Durga Puja celebrations are over. During our stay, we make around 30-35 idols of not only Durga but also Laxmi, Ganesh, Kartik, Kali and Vishwakarma,” the 45-year-old idol-maker tells Metrolife, as he settles himself for a long day of work inside a makeshift tent in CR Park’s now-closed Chandralok Cinema in G Block.

They start with idols of Ganesh and then Vishwakarma, followed by the main preparation for Durga Puja. While Laxmi Puja follows a week after the four-day mega event ends, Kali Puja is slated a fortnight later and Kartik Puja at the end of the Bengali month of Kartik.

He says each idol takes anytime between 10 and 15 days to complete, which includes making the idols’ infrastructure with straw and bamboo, colouring them and finally giving the finishing touches.

“These are then taken to pandals in areas like Greater Kailash, Gurgaon, Paschim Vihar, Mayur Vihar Model Town, Lajpat Nagar and even Faridabad,” he adds, while mixing colour to paint the idols lined across the tent.

Says another idol-maker Subroto Pal, who also comes from West Bengal, that while the clay used to make the idols is from Punjab, the clay used to make the idols’ faces comes from the banks of Ganga.

“We mix the colour with water and imli (tamarind) paste, which acts as glue and helps in holding the colours together. We are around 15 people who have come, and each one does everything, from making the idols and chiselling to mixing colour and painting them until the final stroke,” he says.

The CR Park artisans say at least 10 people work on each idol here, but many others in Kolkata also add to their effort. Elucidating, 42-year-old linchpin Manik Pal says, “We prepare the idols here, but the ornaments and other accessories worn by them are made in Kolkata using paper and thermocol and shipped here. There is a team working there simultaneously.”

Perched atop a ladder, busy painting the goddesses’ eyebrows, he continues, “It takes almost three hours to make the idol’s face, with the eyes being the most difficult part. They demand complete attention and utmost intricacy.”

The idol-makers are immersed in work from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm and then again from 6 pm to midnight, taking a power nap in between. They earn anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15, 000 depending on the decorations on the idols. They sleep in these tents, where their food is also prepared.

“When we are not in Delhi, we are making idols back home or in other states. I have also made idols in Benaras, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh,” shares Gopal Pal.

After a moment of pause, the 40-year-old adds, “My work keeps me away from my family and children every year during the festive season. I miss them thoroughly, but as they say, work is worship.”

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