Discuss as:

The idol-makers of Kumartoli, India

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images

An artisan works on semi-finished clay statues of Hindu deities in Kumartoli, the idol-makers' village of Kolkata, India, on August 22.

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images

An artisan at work in Kumartoli. Ongoing monsoon rain has made it difficult for the artisans to finish their idols on schedule, with the recent economic slowdown and high inflation adding to the difficulties of the idol-makers ahead of the festive season.

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images

Artisans work on clay statues of the Hindu goddess Durga.

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images

An artisan works on a statue of the Hindu goddess Durga.

AFP photographer Dibyangshu Sarkar paid a visit to Kumartoli, the village of the idol-makers in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Seeking to learn more about the craftsmen, I came across an interview with the Indian poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay, who recalled his childhood in the 1940s:

In those days, instead of buying the idols from the market at Kumortuli, families invited the kumor or artisan home to stay as a house guest weeks before the Puja, during which time he sculpted the idol. The idol at our Puja was known for its magnificent size. It used to be over 10 feet tall. Every morning as the kumor started his work, we children gathered around him and gaped in awe as he gradually turned a fistful of straw and a huge mass of clay into a perfectly formed, larger-than-life figure. And then came the most intriguing part — the painting of the third eye of the Goddess. The artisan would sit in meditation sometimes for hours and then suddenly in one swift stroke of his paint brush, it would be done.