Their hands moved delicately like machines. Their faces, full of intense determination and concentration.
Every year, around this time, artisans from Bengal reach Chittaranjan Park in New Delhi to begin work on one of the most important and “significant socio-cultural event” and religious festivals in the “Bengali Hindu society,” and also for the rest of the country.
“Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Thus, Durga Puja festival epitomizes the victory of Good over Evil. In Bengal, Durga is worshipped as Durgotinashini, the destroyer of evil and the protector of her devotees.” – Wikipedia (Durga Puja)
Chittaranjan Park – or C R Park as it is popularly known – has a predominantly Bengali community. As a result, it becomes the epicenter of all Durga Puja celebrations in the Delhi NCR region. Pandals – huge open tents – are set up where people gather to celebrate during these festivities.
There is a sense of enormous conviviality and euphoria as people from all walks of life dress up in their best clothes and venture out hopping from one pandal to another, mingling with friends and family, exchanging gifts, offering their prayers to the Goddess, and enjoying specialty festival delicacies.
Music and lights form an integral part of the celebrations as the pandals, and the idols are decorated in the most elaborate and fancy clothes, jewelry, and paraphernalia.
But, before all the jubilation commences, a lot of hard work is required. The work within the pandals begins weeks in advance.
However, it is the production of the all-important idols – which require slow and intricate work and constant supervision along with the highest level of craftsmanship – that starts months before the actual event.
It is a humbling experience to look at the idols at various stages of completion. No matter the state they are in, there is a sense of calmness to them, one that is often attributed to a higher being.
What intrigued and interested me the most was watching the artisans work. Even though a handful of us descended into their work-space, clicking away photos, they continued to work without a hint of interruption.
Their hands steady as ever. Their faces spoke of the importance and responsibility the work holds for them, and their work in return proof that they are the best in what they do.
Once these numerous idols are finished – and they would have been by the time you read this post – they will be transported to various Pandals in the region.
For now, they all stand together as one while the artisans begin the very last phase of their completion.
The Tools of their Trade
The workshops were in a small open space next to a residential complex – CR Complex – and on the grounds of an old cinema theater. The only pandal we visited was still being set-up.
A Few Locals
The transformation of the idols from the original state they were in at the time of taking these photographs to the final bright, beautiful, colorful, and bold icons that adorn the various center stages of the pandals is both intense and extraordinary… something I hope to photograph in the future.