Keeping alive grandpa’s clay legacy

Asked how they manage to make divinity from clay, 42-year old Tarun Sutradhar from Gopalpur-Perua village of Birbhum calls it “mother’s blessings”

By ACHINTYA GANGULY in Ranchi
  • Published 12.10.18, 12:04 AM
  • Updated 12.10.18, 12:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
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GETTING HER READY: Third-generation artisan from Bengal Tarun Sutradhar at work at Durgabati in Ranchi earlier this week. Picture by Manob Chowdhary

There’s an image of the goddess in most people’s hearts. And that’s the lingering Puja feeling, over and above the shopping, pandal-hopping and feasting.

One of the most iconic faces of Durga in Ranchi is at Durgabati, which will complete 135 years here. And one family from Birbhum, Bengal, has been making the idol for over past seven decades.

Going strong since 1883 as the capital’s first community Puja, Durgabati at Albert Ekka Chowk draws a huge crowd during Durga Puja every year for its age-old customs and timeless idols in the traditional ekchala (single-framed) structure.

Asked how they manage to make divinity from clay, 42-year old Tarun Sutradhar from Gopalpur-Perua village of Birbhum calls it “mother’s blessings”.

Tarun’s grandfather Debendranath Sutradhar began making the idol here over 70 years ago. Then, Tarun’s father Annada Prasad took over. “I used to accompany my father here as a young boy. I would help him, run errands for him and watch him at work. When my father died two decades ago, I took on the responsibility,” he said.

Durgabati president Jyotirmoy Choudhury said contacting the Sutradhar family from Birbhum had become a part of their tradition. “We are a traditional Puja. The ekchala idols are a very important part of our identity. So yes, we trust the Sutradhar family to create them.”

Tarun agreed it was a big responsibility. “Though my father (Annada Prasad Sutradhar) died young, I am really fortunate I could train under him. My father was a great artisan,” he said.

Shetanka Sen, an active member of Durgabati who remembers Annada Prasad’s work, agreed. “Annada Babu was a true sculptor. I remember Annada Babu would request my uncle, a body builder, to give sittings. He wanted to study my uncle’s muscles properly and replicate those while creating Mahishasura with clay. Imagine the sincerity,” Sen said. “I’ve often recounted this anecdote, how an artisan from an obscure village could understand the importance of having a live model for making a realistic figurative sculpture of Mahishasura.”

Old timers of Ranchi still recall with pride how in 1883, the then head pundit of Zilla School Ganga Charan Vedantabagish mooted the idea of the community Puja and a committee was formed for the purpose with well-known Bengalis Debendra Lal Roy and Nabakrishna Roy as president and secretary. Committee president Debendra Lal Roy had then donated the princely sum of Rs 51, no less than a small fortune in those days, for the Puja.