The men who create God? You read it right. It’s about those skilled hands who create idols of God. In this write-up, the focus is on the Bengali artists who make idols and effigies for Durgapuja in Jaipur. Although it is Durgabari in Jaipur which is a famed place for making Durga idols I visited a lesser-known workshop in the walled Jaipur city.
Even though the Bengali festival of Durgapuja is not native to Jaipur, it’s celebrated with much fanfare in the city among the Bengali community. As per the available information, Durgapuja was first celebrated in Jaipur in the first decade of the 19th century, probably in 1804 AD at Shila Mata Temple in Amer. Jaipur has a large population of Bengali workers, especially the ones working in the jewelry industry. It’s no secret that Bengali hand is considered as the most skilled one and they dominate the skilled workforce employed in the jewelry industry across India.
The relationship of Jaipur with Bengal dates back to few centuries when the king of Amer Mirza Man Singh I became governor of Bengal under the Mughal empire in 1594 AD. He brought along with him deity installed in the Shila Mata temple, Amer– Shila Devi from Jessore in 1604 AD. The Bengali priests were also called in and since then started a new relationship of Bengalis with Amer and Jaipur. Bengali priests have managed old heritage temples in Jaipur for generations. The best example is Govind Devji Temple – the most popular temple in Jaipur. Over the years as Jaipur transformed from the city which manufactured colored gemstones to the finished jewelry pieces, many Bengali skilled workmen also followed and made it home. For the Bengali community, Durgapuja is the most important festival. There is a Jaipur Durgabari Association and it is a popular place for Bengalis to get together in Jaipur. Durgabari in Jaipur is famous for Durga Puja celebrations in Jaipur.
I captured these pictures at Shri Kali Mata Shilpalaya, tucked inside the by-lanes of Johari Bazaar, Jaipur 2 week ago. Run & managed by a Bengali family consisting of 2 brothers Gautam Pal and Sanat Pal along with their father Ganpati Pal, the creations inside their workshop is a result of a time taking manual work which takes days to create each piece of art. The workshop I visited is designed & made in the same way as the ones in Kolkatta or elsewhere in Bengal. It was quite dark inside and the only available light source was the incandescent bulb!
This post is not a guide on how these men create idols of God & Goddesses rather it’s just a peek into their world.
Ganesha idols made out of hay & clay in the below picture is at an initial stage; the one in the center is finished & ready for sale.
These idols in the following pictures are work in progress.
This idol of Goddess Durga has a beautiful face & a typical Bengali look on her face.
Let me introduce you to the creators of these works of art.
Sanat Pal during a tea break
Gautam Pal at work.
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During the conversation, it came up that there are 3-4 more such workshops run by the Bengali artists in Jaipur. These artists work for months. Unlike other cities where Bengali artists travel from Bengal to create idols, usually a month before Durgapuja, this workshop is permanent. Ganesha is a popular idol which sells throughout the year. On inquiring about the number of days it takes to complete one idol, Gautam Pal replied that it’s very difficult to quantify since they work simultaneously on many idols but generally it takes around 10 days. Probably, I will provide a list of Durgapuja places in Jaipur in another post. Visiting this workshop was an interesting experience. You can appreciate a work of art once you understand it’s nuances. If you ever get a chance to explore Durgabari, go for it!!