Calcutta – The potters colony

The first stop of our fourth trip to India was Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is called now.

At first I was very excited to go to India at the period of Diwali the festival of lights, but it turned out that is is more a private event celebrated at home than something you can experience in the street. True, the cities were all lighted-up and people were busy shopping for lights and decorations for their homes. Actually, that week was just after the Durga puja which is a popular celebration in West Bengal, but also the week of Kali Puja which is another big celebration in the area. And particularly in Calcutta.

If we were first struck on the night of our arrival by the number of people sleeping in the street, we were also very surprised to see number of bamboo structures being erected across the city. This, were we told, was for the construction of temporary temples for the upcoming Kali puja.

The next day one of the highlights of our tour was the “potters colony” or Kumartuli. I did not do much research before and was afraid to be inflicted one of the pseudo artisanal attractions you see from time to time. It turned out that the potters colony is the place where these craftsmen are building statues of deities (or idols as our guide reffer to them) for the various celebrations of the hindu year. That week all the colony was busy making statues of Kali for the upcoming festival.


The highly decorated statues present Kali, with a necklace of severed demons heads that she defeated but also stepping on her husband Shiva, she generally has her tongue sticking out. The explanation we were given can also be found on wikipedia:

Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and bit her tongue in shame.

It is difficult to imagine that so many statues will found someone to buy them; but they actually do. Strolling through the colony you can see statues of various shapes, colors and sizes; but all describing the same scene. You will see idols at various stages of their completion, from gross straw shapes, to fully finished ones. Most of the statues will have their head covered if they are not finished. Artists are painting the fine details of eyes or decorations, some even using spray paint for shades.

All pictures with Nikon D700 + Nikkor 17-35F2.8D, I use a polarizing filter mostly all the on this lens.

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Calcutta – The potters colony

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