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The Inspiring Story Of Govind Nath, An Artist In C.R. Park And His Tryst With Idol Making During Durga Puja

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City Wire 27 Sept 2017

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Every year, as Durga Puja draws nearer, a community of artisans begin to work tirelessly to sculpt deities into life, for one of the biggest festivals across India. In C.R. Park, we learnt the story of one such artist, Govind Nath, who introduced us to the processes of the work, and the struggles and experiences of this community. Here's his story.

"There is no greater joy than to be an artist," he exclaims.  Govind Nath, goes on to speak with much honesty, sharing with us how the money involved does not come even close to the labour an artist puts in! But he is carrying forth a family tradition of the art of sculpture making, and there is great dignity in that.

He walks us down memory lane of C.R. Park, when he was only a child menacing around his father, whose art he came to inherit. His brothers, unlike him, caught up with routine jobs in the city but he stuck on.

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Located in the premises of Kali Mandir, the workplace of Govind Nath, has huddled idols of Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh and Mahisasura. It is here that every year even before the excitement for Durga Pujo begins, a small community of artisans begin to tirelessly sculpt deities into life. 

Usually, sculpting a 'murti' varies depending on the labour. But if two artisans were to work consistently it would take them less than a week! The first working hours here begins after 8 and goes on until 2 in the afternoon. The second shift begins at 5 and stretched on until often 3 or 4 in the morning.

There are almost twelve artisans handpicked by Govind, who work alongside with him. They come from remote places in and around Kolkata, and spend almost half a year away from home. 

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The processes and techniques involved in making of a murti are mind boggling. Beginning with tying bundles of hay around wooden planks and sticks, to provide a foundation. The next process involves splattering mud around it in swift motions. And then to let it bake under the sweltering summer sun. After which, the more intricate work of carving out the goddesses and the demons takes place, employing tools like scalpels. 

Then there are processes of air brushing, washing, drying and rewashing. Finally, much more graceful, intricate painting strokes breathe life into the murtis.

Only this year, February, Govind Nath had an opportunity to showcase his talent and work, in France. Through a government initiative, he travelled to Nice and Paris, where he was recognized as the Best Indian Artist. His sculptures, were kept at the museum as a part of this recognition. But he still believes, the artistry that his grandfather and father had in them was much more remarkable. They were given reputation in the National Museum of New Delhi, and often called for their work. "It really felt like there was some great magic in their hands!", he tells us.

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They were much respected and are still remembered by people in the C.R. Park community. This well knit community of people, occasionally take a walk around the aisles of the sculptures that stand in the workplace, and converse in fluent bangla with the artists. The grandparents and parents, bring their children to the workplace and introduce them to the culture and the tradition of sculpture making.

But it is no news that the artists have struggled for recognition. While some like Govind Nath, have climbed up the rungs of ladders through generations, many artisans still struggle to make ends meet. Even now, many often forget to indulge in meaningful communication with the artisans. Plenty of photographers visit the place, but their interaction with the artisans remains close to nil.

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If you ever find yourself in C.R. Park, go and say hello, and try to learn something from them. If you're lucky, Ram bhaiya might even treat you with some 'kadak chai'!

In an effort to document the experiences and struggles of the artisans, the team at Of Routes and Roots have have created a short film, called, The Artist. Here it is.

Written By Tulika Kumari on behalf of Of Routes and Roots.

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