The largest religious festival of the Bangali Hindu community—Durga Puja would be held within a month. Artisans from different districts are busy in Chittagong city making idols for the festival around the clock in around 15 shops at Sadarghat Kalibari, Goalpara, Gongabari, Nittananda Dham and Chawkbazar. These workshops would be supplying idols to the 250 puja mandaps of the city.
Artisans say they bring the earth, the essential element to form the goddess’s image, from the Karnaphuli river. An armature made with timber and straw is then layered with mud to give a rough shape. Then another layer of mud is applied on and the work is finalized with intricate and exquisite details. The idols are then dried in the sun. Finally paint, dress, and ornaments complete the idols.
Generally four of Durga’s offspring surround her. They are Lakshmi, goddess of wealth; Saraswati, goddess of knowledge; Kartik, god of beauty and warfare; and Ganesh, ‘siddhidata’ or the god of auspicious beginning of everything good. However, some Durga idols may have 30 to 35 other associate idols if the devotees so want.
Although the workshops make idols for different pujas all year round, they are the busiest during the Durga puja. The work of making Durga’s idol starts in the Bangla month of Baishakh and ends at Ashwin. The artisans come from different districts including Sariatpur, Gopalgonj, Faridpur and Netrokona. Each of them earn between 10 to 40 thousand takas based on their skills.
To see the work in progress and enjoy the beauty of the arrayed half-done idols, hundreds of visitors, specially children, visit the small workshops every day. Devotees would bid a tearful farewell to Durga after the puja festival and immerse the idol in the Bay of Bengal or the Karnaphuli river.