The artisan is perched at the edge of his studio; behind him are rows and rows of Maa Durga idols. The rain has ebbed a bit. Outside as the sun lies low on the horizon the luminescence effect of the rising sun throws an ephemeral glow on the faces of the Durga idols. The artisan is keen on getting the biggest idol crafted today.
The art of crafting an idol.
Myriad thoughts run through his mind. “Do my hands craft out these beautiful idols? And do the colours I use bring life to these lifeless eyes? Of one thing I am certain: I don’t carve these idols; I don’t bring life to the lifeless; these idols take a shape on their own”.
With a wooden base, he craft the basic structure of the idol with bamboo. Using straw and ropes he fashions the shape of the idol. With fresh clay sourced from Ganga, he mixes it with rice husks till it is hard enough to hold yet pliable enough to mould. The body of the idol lovingly takes shape under his hands. The face remains. This is part of his work he loves the most.
The detailing: Artisan brings life to the lifeless
The artisan continues, he creates a mould of the idols face, nostalgically remembering the making of a similar mould in the years gone before. Mixing the past with the present creating the future, rapt in attention, he sits there quietly and carves the face of the clay Goddess.
His fingers trail down the cheek of the freshly moulded goddess, caressing it, smoothing it. The sweet smell of wet clay helps him etch a smile onto the face of the goddess. He adds a few finishing strokes to the large drawn out eyes. There it is; the face looks soulful; radiant in a way he has never seen before. Remarkable is the end result when you put your heart into something you love doing!
Around the corner, a small shack is stacked with glittering crowns, arms and legs. The artisan moves to his collection of a variety of zaris, beads, mirrors, motis and starts accessorizing. A goddess is a mother, a woman, a warrior. Keeping this universal role that the mother goddess plays in perspective, the artisan starts threading the beads, motis, mirrors accordingly.
Triumph of good over evil
A few meters away is the artisans home. His 12 – year – old daughter, whom he lovingly addresses as Durga, walks in to help her father. She looks up at him and asks curiously “Baba, why do we worship the Goddess Durga?” The artisan, still engrossed in his craft, replies “Dear Durga, as your name suggests, it’s the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother. Durga means something that is inaccessible, invincible or who can be a redeemer in situations of utmost distress. Mother Durga represents strength, morality, power, and protection. She protects humankind from dark forces like selfishness, jealousy, hatred, anger, and ego. She is an embodiment of the feminine force and creative energy. It is believed that she is the supremely radiant goddess who destroys the evil forces and brings peace. These are the reasons why we worship Mother Durga.”
“Baba, why do they say that a woman shouldn’t touch the goddess?” It was first time in a while that the artisan’s hands stopped working. He looked upon his little daughter and said, “ It is said so because people believe that they want to keep the women into a mould. But, you my little girl, you are set free to do whatever you feel like doing. I want you to touch every idol your baba makes. I want you to feel the art. I want you to break the shackles that are put upon women and recognize your own worth. Maa Durga is a woman herself. She will never object to children, whether they be girls or boys.”
The artisan’s little girl hugged him with a trusting smile. Her baba has never lied to her. As the sun goes down and the darkness engulfs the area of the studio, the artisan smiles with content for understanding the true meaning of worship. He is not breaking the traditions but indeed preserving them in the best way he knows. Every girl, woman we come across is in some form or the other a symbol of love, strength, weakness, motherly – care. She must be worshipped next to every divine goddess.
As the artisan heads back home with his little girl, skipping behind him, trying to keep pace, he sees her stumble. He rushes to help her when she stops him saying“ No Baba. Please, don’t help me. I want to fall and rise on my own. I’m the Durga of tomorrow. Maa Durga has given me enough strength.” The artisan has created a difference. His well-put thoughts are now deeply engraved on his daughter’s mind. He sees his daughter stand up all by herself. And behind her rises the shadow of Goddess Durga; the one that’s coming from an idol standing tall far behind her. Such is the blessing of the Mother. She comes home for a short span but empowers each individual.
The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.