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2020: The Durgas Were Not Made!

2020: The Durgas Were Not Made!

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idol makers drawing the eyes of Maa Durga
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It used to be an annual gathering for the poor artisans to come from Calcutta to make Durga idols in Chittaranjan Park, but COVID-19 has stopped them this year

By Ranjan Basu

They would come every year and stay for months to make the idols of Devi Durga for the large number of pujas of the Bengali majority, South Delhi neighbourhood of Chittaranjan Park (and for some other areas as well).

They stayed where they worked, in the temporary sheds in two places: in the premises of the CR Park Kali Bari, and the F-Block compound, where there used to be a cinema hall earlier.

That was a huge financial bonanza for these poor artisans from Calcutta who came every year. They worked all day, cooked there, ate there and slept there. It was the time of the year they had great fun, almost like a daily picnic.

And they shaped the idols with their fine hands and finer artistic sensibilities.

This year, the F-Block compound is totally empty. And just about three or four very small idols are being made in the Kali Bari compound. These too are being made not by the Calcutta artisans, but their local apprentices.

I am sad.

The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed me of my annual pleasure of photographing the making of Mother Durga, which I have been doing for years.

I would go there from day one and shoot everything, every process, from the making of the bamboo and straw structure to the fleshing out of the bodies, to elaborately decorating the idols.

I would go morning and evening, with a deep desire of doing a book, “Making of the Goddess”. But this year, that is not to be. The government, no doubt

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Dohar band performing at Gariahat Tram Depot

So here, I share with East India Story some of the pictures from my years of work.


Ranjan Basu

Ranjan is a photojournalist with a keen eye for news. His lens has been focusing on different subjects – from politics to wildlife; calamities to conflict; dignitaries to the common man,  In a career spanning close to four decades, he has travelled from ocean to mountain to forest to click the latest. He has worked with some top media houses and has been associated with some top names during this period. He is a recipient of the prestigious National Photo Award. Currently he is an educator and is closely associated with theatre as a technical consultant.

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