'Hope world will know Kumartuli now': Pandemic-hit artisans welcome UNESCO tag for Durga Puja


KOLKATA: Idol-makers in Kumartuli, the clay-modellers’ hub in north Kolkata, hope for a revamp of infrastructure, civic amenities and working conditions in their locality after UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) status to the city’s Durga Puja celebrations.

UNESCO on Wednesday accorded ICH status to Kolkata’s Durga Puja, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lauding the move.

Noted artisan Mintu Pal hoped that both the central and state governments will look into the issue of an overhaul of 300-year-old Kumartuli’s infrastructure.

“The overall infrastructure in Kumartuli, which has narrow lanes skirting cramped studios, must be overhauled. The working conditions of the artisans must be improved. We face a huge challenge during rain in finishing our work and shielding our idols in the water-logged streets. These issues must be looked into.”

“Though we have been shipping idols across the globe, only the Bengali diaspora knew us. With the UNESCO tag, we hope people around the world will know Kumartuli,” Pal told PTI.

Kartik Paul, spokesperson of Kumartuli Mritshilpi Samity, an association of clay-modellers of the area, said, “Till now, journalists and shutterbugs used to come to the locality during the making of the idols. But with this development, organised branding is required. We will soon organise an event announcing the future roadmap for it.”

Sculptor Bhabatosh Sutar, who is associated with award-winning Durga Puja committee Naktala Udayan Sangha, said that with the UNESCO tag, the festivities will be much more structured from now on.

“Durga Puja celebration was more localised, but hopefully, now it will more organised and structured,” he said.

“Durga Puja in Kolkata has just been inscribed on the intangible heritage list. Congratulations India,” UNESCO has tweeted.

TMC Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar said that UNESCO permits only three-four such ‘inscriptions’ of ICH every year.

“Durga Puja is the largest public festivity in India comparable only to Mumbai’s Ganpati. But while the latter has received so much publicity through Bollywood, Durga Puja has not. Hence any positive recognition of the festival will encourage clay-modellers, Patua artisans, decorators and lighting experts,” Sircar, a former CEO of Prasar Bharati who is involved in the art-restoration movement in the city, said.

The state Information and Cultural Affairs Department said that Durga Puja is the first festival in Asia to get such recognition from UNESCO.

“It is a red-letter day for us. In the real sense, West Bengal is now Biswa Bangla. Our congratulations to the people the state, the country and the world. We convey our thanks and gratitude to UNESCO for the recognition bestowed on this great festival,” the department said in a statement.