Kumortuli District of Kolkata

The Kumortuli district of Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta), India, is famous for manufacturing clay gods and goddesses for Indian festivals. The district is large and houses multiple workshops where clay figures, decorative motifs, and platforms to transport finished clay idols. Villagers in towns throughout the region carry these painted gods and goddesses through the streets on their shoulders during festival days of the year, depositing the clay figures back in the Hooghly River at the end of their procession, where the clay figures and ornamentation dissolve back into river silt.

I spent a day wandering through the alleyways and workshops several years ago. The level of craftsmanship first catches your attention. Large numbers of workers dredge up grey clay from the Hooghly River and sell it to workshops specializing in decorative motifs (see image below left) to figurative works (below right).

Another impressive aspect of Kumortuli is the expanse of manufacturing piecework. This district sprawls. Beautiful medieval-like workshops scatter the side roads and alleyways. Wander into any one at will, the workshops are open and welcoming to curious strangers. This is assembly-line construction, presumably on a commission basis. Workshops specialize in very specific elements (platform construction, decoration, figure construction, figure painting, assembly, etc) required for the overall finished piece.

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