Tucked away in the back streets of North Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), close to the banks of the Hooghly River, is the area known as Kumartuli, or Potters Town. The area of Kumartuli is over 300 years old. The area survives today although the potters employ many of the traditional methods used by their ancestors. The local resident community of artisans earn a living by sculpting the various idols for the various festivals.
This area is a photographer’s paradise. The lanes are cramped, the streets often dirty and filled with clay, animals and people living they daily lives. It is fascinating to watch the people at work. All around are idols in various stages of creation (depending upon the time you visit), clay is being worked, straw and bamboo structures being fixed, and faces being sculpted and subsequently painted.
During my 4 month stay in Kolkata I found myself drawn to this area and visited on multiple occasions. It seemed natural therefore, to use a handful of the images taken as the basis for my October photo essay. October in Kolkata is festival rich, or at least, October 2014 was festival rich. At the very beginning of the month, they people of Kolkata celebrate the Durga Puja one of the biggest festivals in Kolkata. I missed that one, but was present both for Diwali and Kali Puja. There are several images of the goddess Kali included in the essay. At the end of the Puja, the idols are immersed in the river, where, as all the component parts are biodegradable the idol returns to the elements.
The clay is sourced directly from the river and delivered in the evenings to the artisans. Bamboo poles are transported down the river to Kumartuli together with the straw that is used.