A soft spoken and highly educated gentleman, Anindo Kanti Biswas teaches Indian and Western Modern art at Delhi College of Art. I went to him to get to know some textual knowledge about the idol making and I was not disappointed. Following is the interview with him.

“Tell me something about Idol making.”
“In 1985 my parents transferred to Krishna Nagar and that was the time I interacted with idol making. Krishna Nagar is famous for Idol making and this area is hub for this art form. During that time a famous Idol maker Shambhu Pal was dying. He was the first person whose idols were sent to overseas. The idol making started with potters who made murti of deities and they were known as murtikar. Then the murtikar get the control over all the idols making. There is also stratification for the making of idol on the basis of their individual parts among murtikars. Like the idol structure created by one, the colouring was done by other and the decoration and dressing was done by third person. This is the main difference between Delhi and Kolkata Idol making. In Delhi all the people work together without distinction of any individual role.”

“What is the history of idol making?”
“Before 1949 all the colleges were known as Government school of art and craft, not college. After 1949 these schools came to know as colleges. This was because the British wanted the draft men but they have no motto to create artists. As such Sunil Pal was the first idol maker, but he was not a good artist. Bhabesh Sanyal, who did first portrait of Rajendera Prasad, says that even then artists were considered as fourth class people. Thus the sculptures made by Sunil Pal are the example of good craft but not art. It is a common believe that the idol making originated from Kolkata. But it is not true because the original place for idol making was Krishna Nagar village “Ghurni” Not Kolkata. It came later to Kolkata as the idol makers move to Kolkata from Ghurni. The idol making in Krishna Nagar is 400-500 years old as the river Jhalong provide the raw material i.e. clay, for idol making.”

“Can you tell something about the status of idol makers?
“There are generally lower cast people Vysha and Shudra which done this whole work. This is because idol making was not known as respectable and reputable profession. Today this profession become respectable but there is still no societal reputation with this work.”

“What is the financial status of the artisans?”
“Generally we can find these people working on the roadside. Like near the Akshardham flyover. These people are craftsmen. But are not given any respect. Likewise the murtikars get the work during the festival season. But after that they have to take up odd jobs. They cannot even take up regular job as no company will allow a leave of three to four months. Thus they are in a very insecure position.”

“Are there any NGO helping these artisans?”
“NGOs are not able to touch the people at the ground level. They are operating on a superficial level. If I apply for job at NGO they may provide but they won’t give it to someone at the grassroot level.”

“What can government do to uplift the artisans?”
“Government can be a lot of help. They can strengthen and increase the places where craftsmen get rewards for their hard work. For example this craft museum, it is a burning example. The craftsmen are brought in from different part of India. They reside and work in here. Everything is paid for them.

“So what can be done to help the idol makers?”
“There can be a place where the idol makers can live and create their art, which can be then sold to government only, even in meagre amount, it will help. Secondly what least thing can be done is that a licence should be given to the artisans, which help them in finding work all across India.”

For more information, please contact him at 8920986452