116 idol makers honoured in Barisal
The fifth annual reception for "Pauls and Kumars" (sculptors and artisans of idols) was held in Barisal city yesterday with a call to patronise these traditional idol makers, mainstream them into society, and give them professional recognition.
"Mritshilpi Sammelon O Sammanona Udjapon Parishad", an association in Barisal promoting the hard-up, unsung artists, organised the event at Aswini Kumar Hall, conducted by convener Sushanta Ghosh and coordinator Bappi Majumdar.
A total of 116 idol makers, including 11 females, from three of six districts of Barisal division--Barisal, Jhalakathi, and Pirojpur--were presented with crests, clothes and Tk 500 each. The association has been honouring them since 2009, first of its kind in Bangladesh. Artisans from the three districts are registered with the parishad.
Nikhil Sen, cultural activist, presided over the ceremony, while Rakhal Chandra Dey, president, Barisal district Puja Udjapan Parishad; Ahamad Mostafa Kamal, litterateur; Prof Muhammad Muhsin, acting registrar, Barisal University; Parvin Joly, assistant professor of history, Jahangirnagar University; Ajoy Dasgupta, associate editor, daily Samakal; were present on the occasion.
Among others, Syed Dulal, Akkas Hossain, cultural activist; Jiban Krishna Dey, rights activist; Manabendra Batobayal, president, Barisal Press Club; and Nazrul Biswas, president, Barisal Reporters Unity, addressed the programme.
Buli Rani Pal of Goila village of Agoiljhara upazila, Barisal and Uttam Pal of Jhalakathi were specially honoured for their achievements in the art of idol making.
The speakers and participants said that for centuries, Pauls and Kumars had been keeping this ancestral profession alive even after living in abject poverty and without any social status and recognition as mainstream artists.
After weeks of work ahead of Puja festivals, particularly Durga Puja which began on Tuesday night, these artists return home with an incidental amount of pay.
A team of five or six artisans needs 17-21 days for crafting a big idol, while the smaller ones take them 13-17 days. To ready a protima, they collect bamboos, hay, clay, wooden sticks, jute, and rice chaffs, among other articles. For all this, the team is paid Tk 25,000 to Tk 50,000. The mandap committees arrange their lodging, food additionally.
The speakers said unfortunately these artists who lay in the core of Hindu festivals had been neglected for years. For this, many crafters have left this profession, and it has been strongly necessary to give economic and institutional support to defend this craftsmanship from extinction, they said.
The five-day Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of Bangalee Hindus, started on Thursday night at 550 Puja Mandaps of the district including 33 in the city.
The festivity will come to an end through immersion of the idols and images of the deities in different rivers, canals, ponds with solemnities and religious rituals and exchange of greetings of "Bijoya Dashami" on Sunday.