The photo above paints a grim picture of the situation of artisans at Kolkata’s renowned idol-making hub, Kumartuli. With cyclone Amphan ravaging the city besides other districts of West Bengal, and inundating them ahead of the festive season, Kumartuli is staring at an uncertain future.
Photos of clay idols floating in floodwater in the north Kolkata neighbourhood have been circulating on social media since the cyclone wreaked havoc after it made a landfall on May 20, claiming the lives of over 80 people and destroying property worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Strong gusts of wind had blown away the roofs of many workshops in Kumartuli, but the damage has been restricted due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown as several sculpture artistes and labourers had gone back home, according to a report by the Times of India.
The damages suffered due to the cyclone would severely affect the upcoming Ganesh and Vishwakarma pujas this year, according to Babu Pal, the spokesperson of the Kumartuli Mritshilpa Sanskriti Samiti, an association of artisans in the city’s biggest idol-making hub.
The pandemic had affected their business during Basanti and Annapurna pujas, but the spokesperson said they had expected the situation to improve by May. He fears that even if there’s a demand this year, Kumartuli will not have the means to cater to it, said the report.
One of the heart-wrenching moments for the artisans was when they found their idols floating in water; where immersion came before the festival itself. As per the report, at least 70 clay idols of Goddess Lakhsmi had dissolved in water overnight in the workshop of Mahadev Pal, a 58-year-old artisan.
Kumartuli has already been staring at huge losses as idol-making had come to a halt due to the ongoing lockdown. Apart from the issue of labourers returning home, the idol-making hub has also been struggling to procure the raw materials required for making idols during the lockdown.
“The lockdown has impacted our business adversely. Labourers have gone to their villages. Usually, at this time, we used to be busy making idols, but now we are not being able to get even raw material. The work has stopped completely,” Subol pal, a sculpture artist, had told news agency ANI last week.
The potters’ colony, nestled beside the Hooghly river, also exports hundreds of Durga idols every year. But several such puja organisers abroad had decided to call off the festivities this year at the last minute due to the pandemic situation, dealing a deadly blow to the artisans’ hub.
“I had made five fibreglass idols for the US this year. All the five committees informed about not holding the puja this October. But two of them asked me to keep the idols for next year. We are desperately hoping that the situation will be better at least in the state after some time, as the pujas are still months away, to partly make up the huge loss. But the idols meant for overseas will remain unsold this year,” said Prodyut Paul, an idol-maker.
(With inputs from agencies)