Thursday, 13 July 2017

Explore Kumortuli - The Potter’s Neighbourhood while you TEFL in Kolkata

India’s connection with art and culture dates back to time immemorial and sees a lot of variation with regional influence from one state to the other. Such variations result in a rich cultural heritage which India already boasts of. Bengal too, spells its own charm when it comes to presentation of art crafts. Among all the art products that Bengal has produced over all the years, Kumortuli holds a special place in the hearts of those who have paid a visit to the charming place. Other than visiting Kolkata during the peak tourist seasons, a TESOL course in Kolkata is a perfect reason to embrace and feel the culture and warmth of the city along with setting your career on the right track. 

God created man, now man creates God. This is definition of Kumortuli befits it in each aspect. The name stands for the neighbourhood of the potters which is a tiny town situated in the insides of the northern part of Kolkata, beside the holy river Ganga. The artists of this talent-rich hub along the banks of the river have been mesmerising the world with their art form. The bustling crowd of artists that work tirelessly in the area’s narrow lanes day and night may not be equipped with modern techniques, but the hard work, persistence and originality witnessed here is unparalleled. Here, idol making is a full time profession and a way of life which is completely different from what we can perceive it to be and is interestingly associated with the life of Bengalis. Saying so, it needs to be mentioned that majority of Bengalis survive the entire year waiting for Durga Puja for which they can splurge all of their hard earned moolah. One can actually feel the enthusiasm and energy pulsating through the city during Puja. It is the preparation that keeps the potters/artists of Kumortuli the busiest. They are not only limited to supplying Durga idols within the city boundaries but their reach has extended to the lands of America, Australia, Japan, London etc where Durga Puja is celebrated with equal grandeur among the Bengalis residing abroad.
 During your stay in Kolkata for an in class course to give your career a fitting start, it is quite advisable to visit Kumortuli once to get a feel of the ‘earthy’ neighbourhood of the potters. You will find that the hardworking people live in a harmonious environment and are busy creating idols all the year round as some event/ festival or the other is always round the corner. Durga Puja is certainly their peak time but that doesn’t mean that they are out of work the other time round the year. They keep making idols and keep selling them from time to time. The whole process of idol making is quite unique and often contains an artists’ signature style. As Durga Puja is the peak season, the idol making process starts 4-5 months beforehand to meet the high demands. After the completion of ‘kathamopuja’ (a prayer to the God before shaping the initial structure out of hay and straws), clay is brought and readied from near the holy Ganga for structuring the idol. Once done, it is dried, painted, decorated with jewellery and then it is ready to start its journey towards the destination.
It needs to be mentioned that the idol making business is patriarchal in nature. It is not that women do not work in this industry, but as with many other professions, there is quite a lack of recognition for the hard work they put in. In earlier times, when Durga Puja was mainly done in rich and influential households (the Zamindars, Bonedi and the Barowari Puja), the artists were hired and booked for idol making at their place rather than bringing the idol. Changing times have been proof to the altering conditions of the artists. They are rarely hired and mostly work in their ‘studios’. Idol makers have evolved in their ways along with the changing times. Their union are charging a mere amount from the photographers and using it for development of the area, also artists now are keen on using environment friendly colours to protect nature. Kumortuli has stood the test of time over and over again and remains among the top draws for people visiting the Bengal capital. 


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