Theme Durga idols going abroad from Kolkata this year

Kolkata: Instead of the traditional Durga idols which Indian diaspora abroad prefers, two theme based fibre glass Durga icons will make their way to the US and UAE this year breaking traditions. .

The idols on the theme of ‘Basundhara’ (Mother Earth) and World Peace will be sent shortly, artists associated with it said.

Renowned idol-maker Bhabatosh Sutar, who has executed the theme ‘Basundhara’ for the puja organiser Utsov Inc. in New Jersey, told PTI at his studio in Behala area here, the fibre glass idol had been in the making for the past six months.

”To my knowledge this is the first time an idol based on a theme is being sent outside the country”, Sutar said. This is a departure from the ‘saveki’ (traditional) structures that have been the choice of the Bengali diaspora. Many puja organisers in West Bengal choose a ‘theme’ – generally a contemporary issue – and their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements highlight the subject.

Elaborating on the theme on which the figurine was crafted, Sutar said ‘Basundhara’ symbolises Mother Earth and the idol in a sitting posture embodies peace, and serenity. Sutar, who had previously made theme-based idols of award winning ‘barowari’ (community) Durga pujas ranging from Chetla Agrani to Naktala Udayan Sangha in the southern part of the metropolis, said he had never been associated with pujas organised by the Bengali diaspora though he had been approached by the organisers several times.

”I was never interested in making traditional idols which was the norm in the pujas organised by people living outside Bengal as they did not want to experiment,” he claimed. Artist Kaushik Ghosh, engaged in the process of idol-making in Kumartuli, the potters’ hub in north Kolkata, said he has received orders for 37 community Durga pujas abroad, including one from Dubai that is based on a theme signifying world peace.

The 12-feet idol, on a sitting posture and mounted on a lotus, will take some more days to complete, Ghosh said. ”Bengalis living abroad don’t want tinkering with the traditional look of the deity, and they don’t compromise with rituals.

Theme idols and theme pujas are not popular with probasis (Bengalis living abroad),” Ghosh, who has made idols for pujas in the UK, Japan, and Africa said. However, speaking on theme-based idols sent overseas, well known clay modeller, Mintu Pal, said, ”Way back in 2018, one of my idols, with blackstone effect, had been sent to Australia, symbolising peace and tranquility and it was definitely a theme idol not conforming to the typical traditional look of the deity.

‘Occasionally, there had been initiatives by some organisers to experiment with the looks of the goddess in ‘probasi pujos’ but by and large people living abroad had always opted for the time tested ‘saveki’ look. Idols have already been made this year for transportation to Sharjah, Germany, and the UK, Pal said. To a question, he said, if more offers come from overseas organisers for making theme-based idols, he will certainly go for it for good business.

This year, around 100 idols ‘saveki’ in style will be shipped from here to various places across the globe, including European countries, the US, and Japan. Another artist China Pal said ”organisers outside Bengal always go for the saveki look”. The idols that she is making for Durga Puja – one for a puja in Kashmir, one in Bhopal and the third for a UK-based person hailing from the city- “All three are being made according to traditional style”, Pal said.