The Durga Puja is a ten-day religious festival celebrated in the Northern and Eastern reaches of India. The festival draws many tourists because of the renowned gaiety and grandeur of the celebration. The Durga Puja is mostly celebrated on the community level hence all preparations are conducted by a puja management committee assigned by their respective district. Among the many preparations the committee has to deal with, the idols and pandals (tents) are their highest priorities. Captivating idols of the Goddess Durga are displayed on a high central platform within the pandals.
Durga Puja Pandals
The pandals themselves are decorated in a religious fashion giving them a sanctified environment. Seating near the idols also has to be prepared for the priests and the devotees. These pandals serve as the temporary home for the Puja for the ten day duration of the festival. After the VijayaDashami, or the immersion of the idol in a sacred body of water, the pandals are cleaned and deconstructed. If the activity of idol and pandal making has piqued your interest, then read on to learn more.
Pandals are provisional temples during the festival to ensure that everyone has access to the religious rituals. The construction of Pandals is a complex and cumbersome ordeal that requires quite a bit of financing, hence today financing is usually managed by asking for contributions from the local community. Barwari Puja or the construction of pandals used to be financed by the wealthy families and land owners but as of late has become a community-wide contribution.
Pandals adhere to a certain architectural plan and are built with wooden planks, cloth, and bamboo poles. The pandals differ between communities as they are adapted to the available space as well as the population of the commonality. Pandal construction in modern times has become an extravagant affair, wherein the more indulgent the construction is the better. Intricate patterns, complex light fixtures, arrays of flowers and designer materials are only a few of the grandiosities found in modern pandals.
Durga Puja Idols
The idols created by the artisans of West Bengal are renowned throughout India as the most captivating and astonishing figures because of the traditional and meticulous method they use in crafting them. Ancient practice dictates that all materials used in the idols should be drawn from sacred bodies of water. The construction of the idol begins months before the festival. Parts of the process include the creation of a bamboo framework, insertion of straw, andtying down with Jute string and rope. Finally, clay molders spend the next several months perfecting the idols into a breathtaking image of the Goddess Durga.
The creation of the perfect idol is a tiresome endeavor which requires a great deal of devotion and proficiency on the part of the artisans. As mentioned earlier, the creation of an idol takes several months and therefore a group of artisans are employed to make the process faster and easier. A group of artisan makes the framework, the other mixes the clay, while the masters construct the head, hands, and feet of the idol.
The application of the clay coat on the idol occurs in three steps. The first step of clay coating is done using a clay solution with a greater part of water, so that the mixture would fill the gaps and crevices in the straw framework. The second coat of clay is spread very meticulously as it will be the external layer of the idol and it should therefore be smooth and free of any blemishes. It is also during the second clay coat that the head, hands, and feet are attached.
The last stage is simply a “retouching” coat, to strengthen the idol and fix any cracks that the drying process might have created. At this juncture the statue would be painted with a white base earth color followed by yellow. The last coat of earth color used is blood red. After the paint has completely dried the final details such as eyes, nose, and mouth are painted onto the statues. The idol of the Goddess Durga is then clothed in rich garments and adorned with jewels.