They may be away from home, but for Bengali families in the city, Durga pooja is very much a big celebration. With preparations having begun, artists from West Bengal have come down for the occasion to make the colourful idols.

They bring along the required materials, including clay from the banks of the Ganga, a special ingredient to bring the idols to perfection.

“We bring three types of clay – from fields that would be used for making the outer form, from the banks of Ganga and from the river bed. The clay from the river bed does not develop any crack,” says Jeevan Krishna Pal, one of the artists.

While the euphoria around the festive season is catching up in the Bengal Association in the city, the artists are giving final touches to the idols that they have been working on for the last two months. They will be supplying the custom-made idols to Kalpakkam, Korattur, Anna Nagar and other areas around Chennai. “During the last two months, we made frames for the idols, and then made a straw doll on which different layers of soil were cast. We later moulded it to give the structure which we are now painting to give a smooth finish,” says Situ Mondal, engrossed in painting one of the many arms of the deity.

The artists prepare all the materials from scratch including the paint, and now they have started mixing it with chemicals to enhance the quality. “Our festival would be incomplete without the idols of Durga mata accompanied by the idols of her sons Ganesh, Karthik and daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati,” says Banalata Pal, a member of the Bengal Association.

The artists ensure that each idol given away is different and take great care in embellishing and painting them differently. “We do not paint the eyes of the goddess until Mahalaya amavasya day…that is when the goddess comes to earth and manifests herself in the idol,” says Mr. Mondal, explaining the popular belief.

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