The real heroes behind the festivities
When the sky is blue with cotton candy clouds and the fragrance of ‘shewli’ fills the air, it’s time for the celebration of the grand puja festival, Durga Puja.
Durga Puja is traditionally celebrated for 10 days in the month of Ashvina, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. Durga Puja celebrates the conquest of mother Durga over the devil king Mahishasura. The first day of Durga Puja is known as Mahalaya, which announces the arrival of the goddess. However the main celebration and worship begin on the Sasthi, the sixth day. The goddess is worshipped for the next three days in her various forms. The celebration ends on the 10th day of victory, Vijaya Dashami, with the departure of mother Durga. Although the celebration is for 10 days, its preparation starts long before.
In Bangladesh, the Shakhari Bazar of Old Dhaka is the main centre for making sculptures for Durga Puja. The narrow lane of Shakhari Bazar fills with sculptors making fascinating pieces of goddess Durga. At first, they use wood and bamboo along with clay to make the structure. They buy the raw materials from nearby shops. Then they use various handmade tools and hammers to give it a proper shape. A minimum of 15 days is required to finish making the idol. They mainly use fluorescent colours to paint the sculpture, but now they also use spray paint to give the idol a 3D structure. With the passage of time, changes have been seen in the idols. A trendier approach is taken to drape saris and put ornaments, giving the sculptures a new look.
Tapan Paal, a 22-year-old sculptor who works in the shop of Haripodo Paal, is one of the most famous sculptors of Bangladesh. He came here four years ago with the aim of acquiring the art of making idols. His father was also a sculptor, so were his family members. He has been seeing and enjoying the craft of making idols from his childhood, which later on inspired him to choose this career. Regarding this, he says, “Everyone in my family works in this profession. Even the little ones who help by bringing in the tools and other necessary materials. I have been seeing this from my very childhood and this inspired me to serve mother Durga by making her idol and being a strong devotee.” He explains further by adding, “We all work day and night before the puja, from 10am in the morning till 1am in midnight. Although the workload is huge, we hire extra sculptors during this period. The customers give us pictures of idols and we put our heart and soul into making them look beautiful.” He adds, “With the making of the sculptures, the festivity of Durga Puja fills the air and our heart fills with enormous joy and happiness.”
But how do the sculptors enjoy the festival of Durga Puja themselves? Another sculptor who works in the same shop, Bappi Paal replies, “We enjoy the festival alongside our work. We try to finish our work and send them to our customers before the Shaptami, the seventh day of Durga Puja. We get four days holiday from the seventh till the 10th for the celebration of Durga Puja. We celebrate the puja with pandal hopping and visiting our relatives. We also visit mondops of Dhaka and the nearby areas such as Narayanganj. We admire the work of other sculptors at these mondops. Seeing our very own idols in the puja mondops and receiving compliments from others make us the happiest.”
Dhaak (drum) beats, and so do our hearts. With the ‘Kaash’ swaying away with mirth, this grand festival of Durga Puja comes to an end. Amidst loud chants and drum beats, mother Durga is carried to the nearby rivers with huge processions for her departure. But we forget the real heroes whom she leaves behind for her advent next year. They are the sculptors who toil day and night to make the goddess; they play a major role in this festival. They are the reason for our happiness. They are the real heroes of Durga Puja.