The Making of the Goddess
Months before the Puja, clay artisans start to breathe life into the images of Durga.
Body of bamboo, straw and clay The basic structure of the huge platform is made with bamboo, as is the Durga idol's skeleton. The flesh over the bones is made of straw tied with the help of jute strings. The palms, head and feet are made separately.
As soon as one set of craftspersons finish making the straw body, the artisans specialising in clay work apply several layers of clay over the body, to give it a smooth look. It is at this point that the palms, head and feet are attached to the main torso.
On being completed, the figure is given a skin colour of white. Then the whole statue is painted with earth colours like yellow and red. The head, palms and feet are made by the highest graded artisans or Pals.
Making the head is a delicate processThe making of the head is a delicate process. The Pals make it with good-quality clay, giving delicate touches to the features. When completed, the head is dried. The liquid plaster of Paris is poured over it. This creates a mould.
When the plaster dries, it is separated from the clay head. The plaster mould is now hollow and many more heads can be made by pouring clay into it.
Finally the eyes are painted by the main artist. Then jute 'hair' is glued on, the idol is varnished and dressed up with fine clothes and ornaments.
Preparing for the goddess' visitCelebrations for the festival span a period of ten days. Since it is essentially a community affair, almost every colony or locality in Bengal erects tents for the grand Puja. So do Bengalis living outside the state. Artisans create beautiful tents or pandals, and there is rigorous competition to see who puts up the most lavish pandal.
On the first day of the festival, hymns are recited to invoke the goddess in the heavens. This special recital is known as Mahalaya. The next five days are spent preparing for the grand yearly visit of 'ma', or mother as Durga is affectionately called in Bengal.
Sixth day: breathing life into the idolOn the sixth day, called Mahashashti, the idol of the goddess is placed on a raised platform in the pandal. This is the day when the goddess is believed to arrive, accompanied by her children Ganesha and Kartikeya, as well as Lakshmi and Saraswati.
It is then the turn of the priest to "put life" into the idol. This is done by a priest's ceremony. For the next four days, the idol is treated as the goddess herself.
In the entire making of the idol, it is possible to see the hierarchy of the Indian caste system in play. Craftsmen from lower castes make the skeleton, with the higher castes making the more delicate features, and the brahmin priest imparting "life" to the idol.
The Making of the Goddess [Features for kids]
By Brishti Bandyopadhayay: Illustration by Anup Singh
Online Mind Games Tic Tac Toe News for Children Antonyms Kids' Magazine Word Play Poems for children Mind Games Discover Earth Ganesh Coloring Pages Tongue Twister Science Magazine Word Search Game Children's Craft Activities Reference Quotations Stories Folktales Learning Math Fiction for Kids Art for Kids Educational Games Coloring Books Quiz Flash Cards Did You Know? Famous People Computer Quiz Coloring Pages Math for kids Children's Books Environment Kids' Activities 5WH Science for Kids Games for Little Kids Riddles Word Match Children's Crossword Jokes for kids Science Quiz