Silchar: Durga Puja, the greatest of all Hindu festivals, is more a celebration of art than of religion. It is a cavalcade of creativity and creativeness that unfolds when the magic touches of fingers add life to a lump of soil. It is a way of earning a moderate living for the Kumhars or clay modellers or idol makers who live in and around Panpatty of this town which is the Kumhartuli of Silchar. Durga Puja is an apex manifestation of various art practices and it also provides employment opportunity to many people.
Panpatty bears century old making tradition. More than a century ago, the large number of idol makers used to come here from various districts of present Bangladesh and used to supply idols. The Kumbhakar community has been engaged in making idol since ages. Over the decades, Panpatty has emerged to be the hub of idol making in Silchar. It is the main idol making centre. Panpatty is also known due to the brothel where large number of commercial sex workers live with their families.
The brothel of Panpatty and Durga Puja has a close religious connection and relation. It is hypocritical because till date prostitutes are shunned, looked down upon, ill treated, insulted and even humiliated. Come Durga Puja and they are revered and respected because Durga Puja will never be complete without the soil from their vicinity. A trip down the lanes and by-lanes of Panpatty reveals how busy the Kumhars are now in giving finishing touches to the idols of Goddess Durga.
One of them said, “Now we do not have the time to even breathe as we will have to supply the 10 to 15 idols of Maa Durga at the earliest.” Shyamal Paul of Maa Kamakhya Shilpalaya said, “This year I will supply 13 idols. Out of these 13 idols, 1 will be sent outside the local region. The business or commercial part is very weak and we are somehow making both ends meet.” Satya Ranjan Paul of Joy Maa Tara Shilpalaya said that this year he would supply around 20 idols. He also regretted the passing of profitable days in idol making.