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Durga to slay ‘Coronasura’ this year as Kolkata artisans theme their idols on pandemic

In face of Covid & dipping business, Kumartuli artisans are undeterred as they are working on several ideas based on the pandemic to make the idols look fresh and attractive.

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Kolkata: Goddess Durga this year will not be slaying Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, but ‘Coronasura’ — named after the dreaded novel coronavirus.

This is one of the themes that idol-makers in Kolkata’s Kumartuli, the iconic potters’ colony nestled in the northern part of the city, have come up with as the pandemic seems to have failed to deter their imagination and creativity.

Kumartuli houses more than 500 artisans, who are involved in the idol-making business. However, this year has been a financial disaster for them.

Kumartuli, which last year received orders for over 4,500 idols, has this year got just 2,200 orders, according to the Kumartuli Mritshilpi Association.

Even in the face of the pandemic and financial despondency, the artisans are working on various ideas as theme pujas are integral to the festival. This year, the ideas are solely based on the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lockdown. Some artisans are also planning to highlight the plight of the migrants in their works. 


Also read: Durga Puja pandals turn full-fledged political battlefield for BJP, Trinamool in Bengal


Coronasur’

The idea for ‘Coronasur’ originated after just one of the 80 artisans, who got tested, came out positive for Covid last month. The one who tested positive is a Kumartuli artisan, but doesn’t live there. The remaining 79 live in the colony. 

The artisans said this made them believe that they are protected by Maa Durga, which is why they decided to make Mahishasura in the form of coronavirus.  

They are calling it ‘Coronasur’ as they believe that goddess Durga will rid the world of the virus.

The coronavirus is manifesting in the Mahishasura in multiple ways. While some artisans are shaping the demon’s head like the virus with spikes, others are shaping the asura’s ear and jewellery.

Speaking to ThePrint, Sujit Pal, treasurer of Kumartuli Mritshilpi Association, said, “This year, business has been the worst-hit in decades.

“We are getting one-third of the price we get every year for idols. The number of orders has also shrunk by 70 to 75 per cent. In this situation, we are trying to find innovative ways to make the idols look new and fresh,” he added.

“I have got an order for a ‘Coronasur’. So, I am making the asura’s head as the virus. None of us has seen the virus, we have only seen the image in newspapers and TV channels. So I am creating the asura based on the imaginary picture of the virus,” Sujit said.

Artist Indrajit Pal said, “I have orders from two big puja committees for ‘Coronasur’. So I am trying something different from others. I will try to make the hair, ears and some jewellery of the asur in the form of the virus.”

Speaking about their businesses this year, he said: “I made at least 8 big idols, 12 feet in height. None of them have been sold yet. They are priced at Rs 1.5 lakh and I am offered around Rs 40,000 to 45,000. I will keep them for the next year,” he added. 

Artisans are also planning to bring the migrant crisis issue and the financial distress in their themes.

“We can create themes based on the current situation, but nobody is ready to pay for our labour this year. But, still we are trying to work on some contemporary ideas,” added Indrajit. 

Worst year ever 

According to Sujit, the association has 210 members, who are known for their work in Kumartuli. Every year, the association gets over 100 orders for Durga idols from NRI associations outside India. However, this year, they got around 30 orders from abroad. 

“The idols, which we priced at Rs 50,000, are being sold at Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. Last year, I got orders for 22 idols, this year I got only 8. This is the situation for all of us,” said Samir Pal, a veteran artist. 

Sujit added that the total number of orders Kumartuli got this year has not exceeded 2,200 as of now, while last year, over 4,500 orders were received. 

He said the association has taken several measures, including distribution of masks, sanitisers, necessary medicines and other stuff to the artisans. The idol-making areas are also getting sanitised routinely, Sujit added.


Also read: With Pujo looming, Kolkata’s housing complexes are Covid time bombs


 

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