Kumartuli artisans modeling ‘Khoya-kheer’ idols

Images ‘Kolkata’ brings to our mind; Durga puja, vintage buildings of British era and delectable sweets. May be a lot more exotic things are associated with the city of joy. But one can not forget the image of ‘Durga’ beautifully crafted by the artists in Kumartuli. It can be understood as a “Potter’s alley.” Kumartuli is a traditional potter’s quarter in north of Kolkata. Here the artists reside in thousands. This Kolkata neighbourhood, not only supplies clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses to various pujas in Kolkata and its neighbourhoods, but a number of idols are exported. By virtue of their artistic productions these potters have moved from obscurity to prominence. Hundreds of clay idols are made here throughout the year. Kumartuli is the nerve centre of the idol making industry in Kolkata. Many other artisans related to idol making stay in this colony. Like artisans for dressing the idols, creating ornaments etc are also earning their livelihood through the joint venture with idol makers.

But a very small number of artisans who make idols from ‘Khoya-kheer’ exist along these clay modellers. Khoya-kheer is used to make sweets. Although major bengali sweets are prepared by ‘channa’ which is raw form of cottage cheese. But on many occasions ‘khoya’ is used to make sweets. Khoya is prepared by thickening and reducing the consistency of milk. It is done by simmering the milk on a very low heat for a very long time. Once it is done, you get a semi-solid paste of milk. These artisans use this semi-solid paste made from milk instead of clay to make idols. The idol can be of god or goddess and may be on a theme like a bride and groom on occasions of marriage. They use edible colours to decorate these idols, although their dresses and ornaments need to be dispensed. These artisans craft these idols on order as the shelf life of these idols is very less. But the very idea that an idol can be made from edible material is appealing to our sense of sight as well as taste. 

These idols are artistic and very creative. These artisans daftly give ‘khoya-kheer’ several human forms. Not only human, but also animals and gods. And they have an absolute divine taste. This art has not received its due recognition and is still unknown to many other than those who stay in Kolkata and have witnessed such excellent craftsmanship. It is a very unique concept which is very traditional and still unexplored and untouched by commercialisation. These artists need some encouragement to establish this form of art and continue its legacy. These are attractive sweetmeat idols which command attention from both young and the old. Hopefully, it gets some life and does not vanish because of ignorance and indifference of the community and government. The kumartuli artisans are magicians who give life to clay and khoya-kheer alike.

About MumbaiGloss

Parimita Chakravorty is an author, blogger, features writer and a communications specialist. She has written for various popular magazines and websites related to beauty, fashion, jewellery and lifestyle, including HAIR India, Femina.in, BeBeautiful.in, Hello, etc. She has also contributed to various youth blogs and magazines. Her book ‘Look Stunning At Any Size’ has been well appreciated and received by the readers. Currently, she is part of India’s leading IT brand and takes care of their internal communications. Parimita is also working towards bringing awareness about Endometriosis in India; a silent epidemic which is consuming a lot of lives. She manages a page ‘Endometriosis India Files’ where patients discuss their condition and diagnosis.
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