| An artisan prepares the structure of a Durga idol in Patna. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
Patna, Sept. 23: Durga Puja is just three weeks away and the fervour is building up in the capital. From shopping to erecting pandals, the city is engaged in puja activities.
The busiest lot, of course, are the artists and sculptors giving shape to the idols of the goddess, her avatars and the demons.
In every nook and corner of the city, sculptors can be seen wrapping fistfuls of straw with strings around bamboo frames to give the basic structure to the idols.
A few of them have already completed the structure and are adding thick layers of wet clay in smooth strokes, giving a final shape to the frame.
Some others are done with their straw and clay work and are busy defining the finer lines of the brow, cheeks and lips with their paintbrush.
Then, there are those who have placed the idols in the sun to harden and are waiting to apply the first coat of paint on them.
Badri Paswan, an artist in Salimpurarha area, said: “Bamboo sticks, cut in various shapes and sizes, are required to make the basic structure of the idols and the platform on which the colossal idols stand.”
Creating idols of Hindu gods and goddesses has been an age-old tradition for Mani Shankar Pandit and family. “Making idols for Durga Puja is a lengthy and back-breaking process. It has to be done diligently and methodically to create exquisite pieces of artistry,” said Pandit.
The process of idol making is such that different sets of people are assigned different tasks. While the skeleton structure of bamboo and straw is done by one group of artisans, another group mixes the clay and applies the mixture to the bamboo structure. Finally, the best artists give shape to the head, palms and feet of the idols.
Sanjay Kumar Pandit is busy painting an idol of the goddess in a ramshackle shed in a narrow lane of Salimpurarha. The 38-year-old artist’s muddy fingers deftly pat into shape one of the limbs of the 10-armed goddess. The sureness of his touch arises from an expertise born out of long years of practice.
“With less than three weeks to go for Durga Puja, the anticipation in the city is almost palpable. Hundred-odd half-finished idols are waiting for their finishing touches. This is one place where even the gods have to stand in queue and wait for their turn to attain completion,” said Pandit. Asked about the price of the idols, he said: “Depending on the size of the idols, the cost varies from Rs 500 to Rs 50,000.”
Gopal Pal has also been making idols for the past 30 years. His father was one of the early migrants from Bengal. “I started assisting my father when I was barely 10-year-old. Idol-making, as I discovered very early, is hard work. It requires finely honed skills, a strong sense of aesthetics, concentration and a deep commitment to the craft,” said Pal.