Durga Puja, the annual worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga, is about to begin in Calcutta, India. The festival lasts the better part of a week and is embraced by the entire city. It has been compared to Christmas, New Years, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one!
The puja effigies of Durga and her consorts are made in Kumartuli, Calcutta’s potter’s town, just as they have for over half a century.
The idols are made from straw and bamboo. The clay is dug from the holy River Hooghly. The entire creation process, from the collection of clay to the ornamentation, is governed by Hindu rites and traditions.
When the sculpting is complete and the clay has dried, the effigies are brilliantly painted, dressed, and decorated.
There is little time for rest or even a cup of masala chai.
The idols are then assembled and rushed off to the Pandals, which are festival sites, scattered around the city, and the puja then begins in earnest.
Finally, Durga and her entourage are brought to one of the city’s many ghats for immersion, into the River Hooghly, and entreated to return again next year, an important part of the ritual.
No sooner have the idols splashed into the river, they are salvaged and recycled for future use.