Now, theme Durga idols going abroad from Kolkata

Kolkata: Every year several idols of Goddess Durga are sent overseas from Kolkata, but this season, at least two of those ready for transhipment in far-off countries are theme-based and not traditional.

Many puja organisers in West Bengal choose a 'theme', generally a contemporary issue - and their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements highlight the subject.

For the festive season this year, a fibreglass idol is ready to be transported to the US while the idol to be sent to Dubai will take some time as it is yet to be completed.

The rest, around 100 in number and 'saveki' (traditional ) in style will be transhipped from the eastern metropolis to various places across the globe, including European countries, the US, and Japan.

The craftspersons said they have not deviated from the 'saveki' style while preparing the idols as the organisers belonging to the Bengali diaspora believe in sticking to the traditional look.

Renowned idol-maker Bhabatosh Sutar, who has executed the theme 'Basundhara' (Mother Earth) for the puja organiser Utsov Inc. in New Jersey at his studio in Behala area, told PTI, the fibreglass idol on a sitting posture, had been in the making for the past six months.

"To my knowledge this is the first time an idol based on an idea is being sent outside the country", Sutar said.

Elaborating on the theme on which the figurine was crafted, Sutar said 'Basundhara' symbolises Mother Earth and the idol in a sitting posture embodies peace, and serenity.

Sutar, who had previously executed the themes of award winning community ('barowari') Durga pujas ranging from Chetla Agrani to Naktala Udayan Sangha in the southern part of the metropolis, said he had never been associated with pujas organised by Bengali diaspora though he had been approached by the organisers several times.

"I had never felt interested to make traditional sabeki idols which is the norm in pujas organised by people living outside Bengal as they did not want to experiment," he claimed.

Artist Kaushik Ghosh, engaged in the process of idol-making in Kumartuli, the potters' hub in north Kolkata, said he has received orders for 37 community Durga pujas abroad, including one from Dubai that is based on a theme signifying world peace.

The 12-feet image is on a sitting posture mounted on a lotus and it will take some more days to complete, Ghosh said.

"Bengalis living abroad don't want tinkering with the traditional look of the deity, and they don't compromise with rituals. Theme idols and theme pujas are not popular with probasis (Bengalis living abroad)," Ghosh, who has made idols for pujas in the UK, Japan, and Africa said. A goddess Kali idol sculpted by him is kept in the British Museum.

Well known clay modeller Mintu Pal, who has got orders for at least 10 pujas abroad, said idols have been made for transportation to Sharjah, Germany, and the UK .

About the trend of theme-based puja abroad, Pal said "Way back in 2018, one of my idols, with blackstone effect, had been sent to Australia, symbolising peace and tranquility and it was definitely a theme idol not conforming to the typical traditional look of the deity."

"Occasionally, there had been initiatives by some organisers to experiment with the looks of the goddess in 'probasi pujos' but by and large people living abroad had always opted for the time tested 'saveki' look," Pal said.

To a question, he said if more offers come from overseas organizers for 'theme idols' , he will certainly go for it for good business.

Echoing similar views, artist China Pal said "organisers outside Bengal always go for the saveki look".

The three idols that she is sculpting for Durga Puja - one for Kashmir, one in Bhopal and the third for a UK-based person hailing from the city- "All stick to the traditional style", Pal said.

( Source : PTI )
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