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The more I delve deeper into the fabric of this city, my sub-conscious sensibilities seem to level up on the surface of my conscious mind. I feel belonged.

Kumartuli aka the sculptor’s quarter in Kolkata, is one such place that would invariably bring up the folk lore back in ones memory, the narratives of which were once recited by all our grand parents.

The layered dynamics of our country is such where every mythological figure & Tithi/date have interpretations in accordance to the indigenousity of the regions. Chaturdashi Amavasya followed by Kali Puja (worship of the goddess of Tantra) are two of them which are performed esoterically in the Eastern region of our country. However, the rest of the nation worships Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali that falls on the same day. Did you know that Goddess Lakshmi has a Tantric form too? She is known as Kamalatmika.

Prep to sculpt the dead & gone for Chaturdashi Amavasya.

Chaturdashi Amavasya, the 14th day of the waning stage of the moon and the day before the new moon, is celebrated with immense degree of pomp in Kumartuli. The rituals performed on this day is called the Pitra Paksha. Folks honour the unquenched departed souls of their ancestors for them to reach the heaven. The performance of this ritual is believed to remove obstacles. It seems to have similarity with the Halloween Day celebrated in the West. The reason being almost the same & the timing, just about. Wonder if there is a connect? Spooky indeed!

Kali or Kalika is believed to possess the highest degree of energy. She is worshiped and celebrated with immense vigour & splendour. The visualisation of the embellished idol of the goddess being carried by her people in the truck from the sculptor’s den to the pandals, is vivid for every Bengali. Her consorts, Dakini & Jogini travel along with her in the truck. Ever wondered the parts these two characters played in the battlefield, when Kali was in a rage to kill the demon Raktabeeja?

Beheaded Raktabeejas & Kali’s weapon
The consorts of Kali- Dakini & Jogini

The demon was endowed with a boon where he could not be mortalised by any earthly beings. If attempted, drops of his blood could create duplicate Raktabeejas. He missed the fact that he could be killed by the divine. Goddess Kali, beheaded & devoured his duplicates. To prevent his blood from dropping, her consorts Dakini & Jogini drank them all as Kali kept slaying the duplicates. Gory and morbid as they may sound, the metaphorical significance of this saga was to banish ego & pride.

The moment of realisation when she steps on Shiva.

The infuriated Kali went on slaying all creatures without demarcating them from Raktabeeja. Lord Shiva, her better half saw no option and laid down on the battlefield in an attempt to stop her rage. An epiphany struck when Kali stepped on to Shiva. She took her tongue out in guilt & embarrassment.

The sculptors in Kumartuli bring out the essence of the battle field & the spookiness of Chaturdashi Amavasya with all their might. The varied forms & colours of the Goddess are a visual treat. Be it Shyama in blue or Kali in black or Tara in grey or hibiscus her favourite flower. By the way, were you able to visualise how Dakini & Jogini would have looked? Savage! Refer the pictures & the captions.

Wonder how the world & the sensibilities would have been, had the sagas been left unchronicled in the Vedas. The dynamics of those archived lore fill Indian ethos with immense character, fervour & vibrance.

Happy festivities! 🙂

Location: Kumartuli, Kolkata.

Cover picture courtesy: Avidip Kundu

Other pictures: Meghna Ghosh