Delhi: The festive season for many just sways by annually, bringing a reason to shop, get together and celebrate. The end of this September will kickstart this season yet again with the onset of Navaratri. While the markets and temples are yet to make preparations for the grand occasion, in the West Delhi Kalibari, artisans from West Bengal's 24 Pargana and Kolkatta arrived three months prior to Durga Puja to bring the resplendent Goddess Durga to life.
The making of Goddess Durga is an extensive affair. Along with the artisans from West Bengal, clay and hay from Haryana and soil from the banks of river Yamuna also make their way to West Delhi Kalibari (near Chhoti Sabzi Mandi, Janakpuri) to begin the process. The artisans, for these three months, make the quarters in Kalibari temple their home. Every day, from 7 am till 3 pm, they dedicate themselves to the making of Goddess Durga.
Pradeep Chitrokar, a native of 24 Pargana and probably the only one of those artists who speaks and understands Hindi, guides us through the entire process. While answering our whats, hows and whens, he is constantly at the first stage of making Durga, giving shape to the hay which is tied with a thin rope. He tells us that the hay is used to provide framework for the idols which are further coated by thick layers of soil. Following that, chikni mitti, or as we know it, clay is moulded to make the face, hands and other important elements of the idol. Finally, the idols are given a paint job and adorned with jewelry. Every year, these artists try to do something new with their designs. This year, they are shifting their focus to doing more refined clay work as opposed to heavy accessorising.
Chitrokar, who has been doing this for almost two decades now, has such refined artistry that he doesn't even need to look while shaping the hay with ropes. Likewise, every other artist has perfected the art of Durga making, from making the wooden frame for the background to moulding the clay and eventually colouring, clothing and adorning Goddess Durga with splendacious accessories.
In a pandal, alongside Durga, Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh, Lord Kartikey and their respective rides also find a place, with a defeated and injured Mahishasur lying at the bottom. This year, these artists are preparing 40 Durga pandals which will then go to several locations in and outside Delhi. Chitrokar tells us that the idols will make their way to pandals in areas such as Moti Bagh, Dwarka, Rohini, Karol Bagh, and beyond Delhi, some will go to Haryana, UP, Rajasthan and more. Along with West Delhi Kalibari, New Delhi Kalibari and South Delhi Kalibari also take the onus of the making of Goddess Durga. Just as the idol nears completion, a tag is tied to Durga's wrist with the name of the temple it will go to from there written on it.
Most of these idols now stand at their final stage of completion. When the occasion of Durga Puja will knock, these idols will stand tall in pandals across India, blessing millions of devotees. By the end of it all, these artisans will make their way back home with a modest earning of about rupees 30-40 thousand.