Carving deities for devotion: Creating sculpted idols for upcoming festivals in Bengaluru

From Ganesh Chaturthi to Durga Puja, artisans in the city have begun gearing up to create the ideal sculpted idols for auspicious occasions. 
Malliga in her house making idols of Ganesha
Malliga in her house making idols of Ganesha

BENGALURU:  As we step into the second half of the year, the time of festivals is upon us. That means for a city like Bengaluru – a melting pot of cultures – it is time to prepare for various kinds of festivals for the many communities inhabiting the city. From Ganesh Chaturthi to Durga Puja, artisans in the city have begun gearing up to create the ideal sculpted idols for auspicious occasions. 

In Pottery Town in the city, work has already begun. “The culture of the work here dates back several hundred years. It is a generational occupation. We have been making idols every year and for this year as well, people have already started work. For Ganesh Chaturthi, sculptures have already been made and currently, we are in the painting phase,” shares Dinakar, a man who owns an artisan shop in the area and has been in the profession for over 20 years. 

Adjacent to Dinakar’s shop, sits Malliga in her house making idols of Ganesha. A senior citizen who has been in this profession for multiple decades, she concurs with Dinakar about idol-making being a generational occupation. Her next of kin have also joined hands with her. “We make Ganesha idols throughout the year. In the first six months, we make the sculpture and then we paint it for the next six months. The idols are distributed all over the city and we make around 5,000 every year. My entire family is involved in the process. This is not their main job though. They are all educated and work in different professions. This [idol making] is more of a family occupation. We have been doing it since our ancestors,” explains Malliga. 

While the local artisans in the city are busy making Ganesha idols and other deities for local festivals, sculpting for an occasion like Durga Puja, celebrated predominantly by the Bengali community, is a foreign affair. To curb this bridge, artisans from Kolkata have come down to the city and set up base in Cox Town, their usual spot since 2011. Sayan Pal comes from a line of artists who have been making Durga idols in the city for over 50 years, a tradition that started with his grandfather Sudhir Pal.  

“We come to this city by the end of June and resume work immediately. We usually stay here for four months and leave at the end of Durga Puja. We make idols for various organisations. Currently, the sculpting process has begun and there is still time for Durga Puja. However, we also make for other festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi. Our Ganesha idols are presently being painted,” says Pal. 

One of the organisations which work with Pal and their artisans is the Bengali Association for the Residents of Sarjapur and HSR Layout Area (BARSHA). Their publicity head, Priyanka Roy says, “We closely work with the top artists that come down to Bengaluru from Kolkata. This year, our idol is inspired by an 88-year-old puja of Kolkata, known to all as Maddox Square. The ornamentation is being handcrafted by the descendants of the artisans from Krishnanagar, West Bengal, who are generationally famous as the makers of some of the best idols in Kolkata. The idol is being built here. We want to recreate the nostalgic environment of College Square and Maddox Square.”

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