Not much to cheer for idol makers this Durga Puja

The festive season will not be the same this year amidst the coronavirus pandemic. As Mahalaya on Thursday ushered in Durga Puja, the festival for the Bengali community celebrated with much grandeur, many are wondering what is in store. Here is why.

Big pandals are not on the list with purse strings tightened by the people in localities not willing to donate freely to Puja committees who inturn are hunting for sponsors. Sponsors too have reduced spending. This in turn has impacted artisans in Kumartulli, where Durga Puja idols are made for pandals in localities, households and are also exported.

“Our business has been hampered due to 5 months of lockdown and artisans were not able to work properly. Work started very late. Many labourers have not yet come. There are total of 3300 artisans and currently we have 700-800 artisans working. Till now only 30% of the orders have been completed, 70% more has to be done.” Said Babu Pal, Secretary Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskriti Samiti.

Only about 13 fibre idols have been exported this year compared to previous years due to global lockdown restrictions. This too has impacted earnings of idol makers. “A lot of artisan’s workshops were shut, but now orders are coming in. People are opting for smaller pujas this year, hence idols are smaller. Also people have limited budgets this year which is another reason why business is affected.” Said China Pal, the first lady idol maker in Kumartulli who has been in the business for 22 years taking on the reins from her father.

While the reality of COVID-19 will linger post the lockdown being lifted, ‘coronasur’ or corona as the demon will be reflected in some pandals across Kolkata. A reminder, that Goddess Durga slays all demons and ushers in hope for a better tomorrow.

With 35 days remaining for the main Durga Puja festivities, people will muster up courage to step out to meet their family and friends after months. However social distancing is a big factor, moreso for senior citizens and many households opting to celebrate within restricted communities, rather than step out amidst large crowds in neighbouring localities.

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