Pune’s Durga artists in fine fettle to meet puja deadline | pune news | Hindustan Times
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Pune’s Durga artists in fine fettle to meet puja deadline

Hindustan Times explores the tales of changing trends and traditions, from the first hand account of the artisans working tiring hours to sculpt the elaborate and intricate idols of the deity

pune Updated: Sep 19, 2017 18:00 IST
Ananya Barua
Shukharajan Pal works on one of his Durga idols at Khadki Kumartuli in Pune on Monday.
Shukharajan Pal works on one of his Durga idols at Khadki Kumartuli in Pune on Monday.(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)

The soft showers of autumn, and the fragrance of night jasmine, known as ‘Shiuli’ is Bengali, indicate the grand arrival of the fierce goddess of ‘Shakti’, Durga, on earth, on the auspicious day of Mahalaya. On the eve, Hindustan Times explores the tales of changing trends and traditions, from the first hand account of the artisans working tiring hours to sculpt the elaborate and intricate idols of the deity.

Shukharajan Pal, is one of the oldest artisans to have come to the city to facilitate goddess Durga’s arrival. Having begun his journey sculpting Durga idols at a young age, the 77-year-old artist recollects his memories back in Bengal learning the intricate art form and how things had changed over the years.

“Bringing the idols alive is the art that has been passed on to us by our forefathers. As a young boy, I would see my grandfather and then my father, mixing the mud, cutting hay to create the base of the deity, and finally sculpting the idol to perfection. Her eyes, were to be drawn on theauspicious day of Mahalaya. We call it‘chokkhu-daan’, which literally means donating eyes,” said Shukharajan Pal.

His eyes, however have betrayed him with age, and his son Tapas is the one holding the reigns of the establishment. With the father’s fading eyesight, the tradition of drawing the eyes on this day, signifying the invocationof the deity, is also fading, and the son shared why.

“Tradition has its own place. But we have to be practical and meet the deadlines. We cannot get fixed on the tradition and not deliver. So, we are now unable to maintain the tradition of ‘chokkhu-daan’. We draw them long before. Unlike the early days, when the idols would be sent only a few days before the Puja, now pandals and associations demand delivery on the day of Mahalaya itself. In such cases, following such traditions become impossible!” said 38-year-old Tapas.

The Pal family now has 12 artisans under them working from wee hours to finish the idols at Khadki Kumartuli. They had been brought to Pune in the month of June to begin the work. This year, they have received orders from over 25 pandals across Pune.

At another such potter’s den, in Bhonslenagar, Keshto Pal shared the intricacies of the process.“Not only do we travel from Bengal to Pune, but we also carry our raw materials from there. Maharashtra has red clay, which can be used as a base, but eventually it is the soft clay from the banks of Ganga that is used to form the final layer. Also, in terms of the colour, we use all water based colours, with which we mix the powder of tamarind seeds for thickness and lustre,” he said. He has been associated withBangiya Sanskrit Samsad, in Bhonslenagar for the past 36 years and is a fourth generation artisan.

Despite the demand for Durga idols, even away from home, he shared that his next generation is moving away from it.“Our sons are no more interested in this art, which they think is too difficult for them. Out of the four brothers and their sons, only two from the next generation are trying to keep our family trade alive.”