Located along the Hoogli river, Kumortuli (meaning potter's colony) in northern Kolkata, carries a 300-year-old tradition of clay idol making. Durga Puja being the largest celebration in Bengal, Kumartuli gets hyper-busy in the days before the puja begins.
Kolkata has had the tradition of Durga Puja from the early 17th century. Since 1610, the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family has been organizing Durga Puja at their residence in Barisha, Kolkata. This is probably the oldest Durga Puja festival in Kolkata. Nabakrishna Dev started Durga Puja at Shobhabazar Rajbari in 1757.
It was Raja Nabakrishna Deb who brought skilled kumors (potters) from Krishnanagar, the traditional seat of the skilled potters about km from Kolkata to create idols of the goddess. He settled them at the banks of Hoogli river, so that they could easily get the required clay. Thus began the tradition of Kumortuli.
Presently, there are over 600 artisans in Kumartuli. They hire over 5,000 labourers every year. There is a very high demand for the idols made here. A medium-sized Durga idol along with her four children and the Mahisasura costs around Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.3 lakh and can go up to Rs 1.8 lakh.
According to the old traditions, the practice of Idol making begins on the day of “Rathayatra” after offering prayers to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. To make the idols they follow three basic patterns. First, they make the main framework out of bamboo or wood with the exact required size and shape. Then they cover it with straw to give a basic structure to the idols. Then they cover it with clay which is said to comprise ten types of Clay. The last part is painting the idols and decorating with bright coloured clothes, accessories, and artificial weapons before they are finally taken to the “Puja Pandals” across the country and even abroad.
Kumortuli gets hyper-busy before the Puja. The narrow lanes and by-lanes are filled with idols in different states in the making. Many people visit Kumortuli during this time just to see this. I also went this year. I found the place extremely crowded with camera wielding people of different age-groups; and young men and women taking selfies with their phone camera. Bloggers and Youtubers, in increasing numbers, are visiting the place. This camera wielding crowd is gradually becoming a menace for the potters, who are trying to get on with their works.
Remembering Akshaya Mohanty
Akshaya Mohanty, popularly known as Khoka Bhai, the legendary singer-music composer of Odisha was born on 12 Oct in 1934 at Bankimundai village of present Kendrapara district. At the age of 22 in 1956, he joined Government services in Cuttack, a city he would later be identified with. By that time he was an approved lyricist of All India Radio, (AIR), Cuttack. In 1959 he became an approved composer of AIR, Cuttack. He quit the government job after seven in 1963 and made music his full time profession.
He recorded his first song Gadiala Bhai Dharichhi Sura Re in the 1950s. His first song as a playback singer was Gori Gori Gori in the 1959 Odia movie Maa. There was no looking back after that. He composed music for over 75 films, sang countless number of songs, acted in few films and composed path breaking music for radio.
He also wrote stories and novels. He has written over 100 stories and 12 novels, many of which were published to both popular and critical acclaim.
Akshaya Mohanty became a legend in Odisha. Interestingly he was so rooted in the city of Cuttack, that he hardly explored other horizons; though he sang some Bengali songs, which were quite popular.
He died in Cuttack on November17, 2002.
In just 40 years, the Internet has almost monopolized the communication ecosphere at a global level.
January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Prior to this, the various computer networks did not have a standard way to communicate with each other. A new communications protocol was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP).
However, its seed was sown in the sixties. Arpanet was the first real network to run on packet switching technology (new at the time). On October 29, 1969, computers at Stanford and UCLA connected for the first time. In effect, they were the first hosts on what would one day become the Internet.
Internet and mobile phone were launched in mid-1995 in India. In less than three decades it has occupied the central position in the communication ecosphere.
The fascinating history of India Post
October 10 was the National Postal Day. The close to three hundred years old postal history of India is closely tied to its political history. Britain’s involvement in the postal services of India began in the eighteenth century. Initially the service was administered by the East India Company who established post offices in Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta (now Kolkata) between 1764 and 1766.
East India Company and the British Post Office in India opened the posts to the public in March 1774, when Warren Hastings was the Governor General of British India. Prior to this the main purpose of the postal system had been to serve the commercial interests of the East India Company. Serving economic and political needs of the ruling authority remained a driving force in the development of the postal service. The Post Office Act (1837) reserved the government the exclusive right to convey letters in the territories of the East India Company.
In 1850 a uniform postage rate was introduced. Previously charges had been calculated on weight and distance; after 1850 charges were calculated dependent on weight alone.
From the late eighteenth century political power began to slip away from the East India Company. The Company was finally abolished in 1858 and India became a Crown colony ruled directly by Parliament. In addition to managing the postal services of British India, the Post Office was involved in the transmission of correspondence between England and India.
In the 1820s Thomas Waghorn began investigations into improving mail routes between England and India. This led to the establishment of the overland route between Alexandria and Suez. Mails had previously taken three months to reach England, but Waghorn’s letters accomplished the same journey in just 35 days. Letters conveyed by Waghorn carried their own cachet ‘Care of Mr Waghorn’. After ten years of Waghorn’s efforts the British Government and the East India Company were convinced of the viability of this route and took it over.
Tailpiece: Nuggets from Kumortuli
The handwritten poster in Bengali put up at an idol-making shanty at Kumortuli, Kolkata reads: ‘Readymate’ Dugga Ma available.
Photo: Mrinal Chatterjee
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