Amrit Gangar

4th Vol, No 1 (April 2017)

KUMARTULI

NINE POEMS FOR NAVDURGA AND A CHOKKHU DAAN 

1.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

wearing dasabhujā, the ten arms

enters a bull from a street

a crescent moon so bright, and

an image so lustrous

 

a Shailputri is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

2.

 

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

bearing bodies of hay and clay

awaiting alankara on sharira

a rosary bound in beads, and

an image so celibate

 

a Brahmacharini is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

3.

 

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

lolling wrath on tongue, in eyes

trembling foes, in fear

streets so desolate and lonely, and

an image so propitious

 

a Chandraghanta is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

 4.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

holding kalasha of madira and rakta

in hands so pious, like padma

drops drop, drops dip, and

an image so shakta

 

a Kushmanda is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

5.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

growing lotus on palms

in lap a child, Skanda

Kartikeya, mother, the Mā, and

an image so subliminal

 

a Sakandamātā is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

6.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

wielding arms with arms

demons fill the streets sonic

lion roars at himself

an image so ferocious, and

 

a Katyayani is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

7.

 

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

a bulb hanging, lights up

a third eye opens in an instant

a nagna body, hair unlocked

an image so nocturnal, and

 

a Kālrātri is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

8.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

dawning shweta of samaya

bull bathed in milk

robes divine cladding streets, and

an image so bright

 

a Mahagauri is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

9.

 

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

a symphony of conchs, cymbals

time becomes a chakra here

gods chant, chant demons, and

an image so victorious

 

a Siddhidatri is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

And the 10th for ‘Chokkhu Daan’…

 

 

10.

Mainak’s photography

Kumartuli is a quest

Durga, the Doe-eyed Devi

an old kumhar in deep meditation

rises, strikes a brush in an instant

an eye opens out on a forehead…

 

a Trinayani is born! –

– in Kumartuli!

 

 

 

 Notes:

 

Kolkata’s Kumartuli endearingly fascinates me whenever i am in the city of Kali, the Kalikatta (Calcutta / Kolkata). The settlement of Kumartuli, meaning “potters’ quarter” (kumar / kumhar = potter), is over three hundred years old. It was formed by a few potters who came to the area in search of a better livelihood. They fetched clay from the nearby river to make pots and sell at Sutanuti Bazar (later Burrabazar), and eventually managed to survive in the area. Gradually they took to making the images of gods and goddesses, worshipped in large numbers in the mansions all around and eventually at community ‘puja’ in the city and beyond. These icon-artisans mostly dwell in poor living conditions.

 

Durga, in all her nine forms (Navdurga), manifests in her divine organicity – in Kumartuli.Come Durga Puja and beautiful Doe-eyed goddesses manifest one by one by one…

 

Navdurga: Nine different forms of the Mother Goddess.

 

Glossary:

Dasabhuja – Ten-armed; Alankara – Ornamentation; Sharira – Body; Kalasha – Pitcher

Madira – Spirituous liquor ; Rakta – Blood; Padma – Lotus; Shakta – One who worshipsShakti (i have used it in the sense of ‘energy’); Nagna – Naked; Shweta – White;    Samaya – Time

Kumhar – Potter; Chakra – Wheel.

 

Chokkhu Daan: The literal meaning of ‘Chokkhu Daan’ is donation of eyes. This happens on“Mahalaya” (Homecoming) day, which is very special as on the dawn of ‘Mahalaya’ the makers of the Durga idols paint the eyes of the Goddess. Durga, who was married to Siva, returns to her paternal residence during the Puja, signifying her homecoming. On this day, Kumartuli wears a vibrant charisma as the large, gentle, dark eyes sparkle up in instants…

 

Amrit Gangar  is a Mumbai-based writer, film theorist, curator and historian. During his college days he used to write poems off and on both in English (as also Gujarati) and several of them were published in journals including Kavi India, Mirror, Youth Times, Calcutta Canvas, Bharat Jyoti, an anthology of poems on Emergency, etc. Of late, he has again picked up his poetic thread. He has authored a number of books on cinema both in English and Gujarati languages. His recent book Cinema Vimarsh has won the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi award. For the past decade or so he has been engaged with developing and expanding his concept of Cinema Prayoga, which he has presented so far across many venues in the world and India, including Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan.