It was a bright sunny day of July when I went to Kali Mandir situated in Chittaranjan Park. A tent was erected near the cemented pavement, which can be easily spotted from the entrance gate. As I reach the tent under Kali Bari, a young boy working there, pointed me toward the head artisan, Narayan Bhattacharya. A humble and shy person, he was talking to the buyers. As the bargain ended in not so happy note, I approached the man. He gives me a coy smile as he agrees to answer some of my queries. He tells me in brief about his whereabouts. It has been eight long years since he have been coming here to make the idols. He is the head of almost 10 artisans who work with him. He is easy going, just doing his work and does not poke me when I interview the other artisans. He is a dedicated artisan and kept working after I questioned him.

In conversation with Narayan Bhattacharya, an idol maker from Kali Bari, Delhi

My first question was obviously about the authority. He smiles and tells me “I help them in organizing. We have a boss; he brings us here from our village.”

“So you are from West Bengal?” I asked. “Yes! We all are from Nadia district, West Bengal”.

“Oh! So for how long you stay here for?”
“We are here as long as it takes to make the idol i.e. Three months”

“What you do rest of the year for work?”                                                                                     “I know how to make idols only, so back in village as well this is what I do.”

“So is this the work your ancestors used to do as well?”
“No, I am the first one here doing this job. In fact, I got trained here only, in the field.”

I notice the clothes hanging in the background and asked “So you live here only?”
“Yes for three months, this tent is our home. Our boss pays everything for our stay in here.

“You come here always to make the idols?”
“Yes! It has been eight years since I have been coming here to make the idols. The pay is better and secure here. Back in village, sometimes we get paid, sometimes not.”

“How many people are there in your family?”
“Four. My wife, my mother and my child. I am the only earning member of the family.”

“So you are satisfied with the income?”
“Yes! For me the yearly income is enough to sustain.”

“How many idols you make in one day?”
“It is not like that, an idol is never made in a single day. A very long process takes place behind it. So an idol cannot be made in a day. Instead we work on a batch of idols. Now we are putting the clay onto the idols and making the heads.”

“So how do you organize the worker?”
“It is simple actually. Firstly some of them make the clay, others as you can see make the base, while another lot applies the clay. Once the basic clay idol is made all of us would be painting and decorating it.”

“Where are the raw material procured from?”
“Most probably from Haryana. Actually I don’t know the details, our boss supply us the material, and we are the mere idol makers.”

“How much does each idol costs?”
“It depends upon size and decoration actually. Starting from ten thousand, the price can go up to sixty thousand”

“Nowadays there is demand for idols based on particular theme. What is your take on that?”
“It has not really affected our business as most of the people still go for the standard Idols only.”

“So, I see separate Ganesha idol with the Durga Idols as well?”
“Yes. We create other idols as well, not only Ganesha, you can find Laxmi, Kali idols as well. Limiting ourselves to Durga idol will cripple our business.”

“Do you get any help from government or any other institution?”
He laughs a wry laughter. “No, we are not getting help from anybody. We are not anyone’s favourite child”.


Contact the idol makers at Kali Bari: 9810437220