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From Earth They Rise
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

From Earth They Rise

In Kolkata, it is currently that time of the year when the city adorns the traditional lights, makes space for pandals to be constructed on her busy streets, and welcomes the goddess Durga.

Standing proud, in all her glory, is the City of Joy—there is a joyfully maddening rush as the city is swamped with an insane throng of people, all eager to take a peek into the ornate pandals to catch a glimpse of the idols within. These works of art are created painstakingly out of clay; painted to perfection, dressed, and adorned to impress.

Helter Skelter: Kumortuli
Larger than life. Photograph by Sreejita Biswas.

The idols are worshipped, smeared with vermillion, and offered what is believed to appease them. But most people know very little about how they are brought to life. Every year, men and women toil for days on end as they give the city the idols they are so proud of—yet they remain forgotten as the crowds revel in the neon lights.

Located in the north recesses and bylanes of the city, Kumortuli is the place that witnesses the birth of the deities every year, year after year, from scratch. Artisans toil day and night, giving shape to the clay, adding intricate details, carving smiles and grimaces.

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A trip down these streets, through the alleys and plastic-covered workshops, and the idols are seen, before they stand in front of the crowds—imposing and larger than life.


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