Idol preservation: Metal, wood gain priority over clay
Have you wondered where the beautiful idols of the Goddess Durga vanish once the pujas are over and the pandals dismantled? While some of these idols – a handful – are preserved by the state Government at various museums or parks or private collectors, the normal clay idols are simply immersed in the Ganges or other water bodies after Dussehra.
Which idols of the Goddess are being preserved? Bhabotosh Sutar, the artist behind the Chetla Agrani Club puja – mentored by Bengal's minister for Urban Development Firhad Hakim – has had about six of his Durga idols preserved so far. The beautiful idol he has carved out of a single, antique block of mahogany this time will also be preserved at the state government-run Eco Tourism Park in Rajarhat. This is going to be the third of his idols to be preserved at the park."Other idols have been collected by ASI, Derek O Brien and ITC Shonar Bangla. These are all made from wood, metal and even terracotta. I'm hoping that my mahogany Durga(for Chetla Agrani) will be preserved well as a piece of public art", Sutar told Millennium Post.
The trend started in 2011 when the Mamata Banerjee government came into power in Bengal. "A warehouse was built near the Golpark lakes where some idols were collected and preserved. But the state Government also does not have the infrastructure to preserve all Durga idols" Sutar said.
Rupchand Kundu, whose idol at the Behala Friends Club is likely to be preserved this time at the state Government run Eco Park Club, said, "It has to be kept in mind while making the idol that this is not just a temporary construct but an artwork that needs to be preserved for the generations to come. In this idol, made from fly ash, I have shown that even ordinary waste can transform into something divine when light is thrown on it", Kundu told Millennium Post.
It all depends on the material used for making the idol. "Clay is difficult to preserve in the open air. However Durga idols which are made from wood or metals or fibre glass can be preserved in a museum or inside of a building as objets de art", said eminent artist Subrata Gangopadhyay, an advisor to the Sreebhumi Sporting Club puja built around the Bahubali theme. Gangopadhyay has painted extensively on the Sindurkhela theme earlier which is associated with Durga pujas.
Another artist whose idols have been preserved is Sanatan Dinda, though he mostly works with clay.