Krishnagar clay

From practically the first moment since I stepped off the plane in Kolkata in late August, people have been telling me to visit the town of Krishnagar.  Last week I had the opportunity to visit there with a group of artist friends.  Krishnagar is famous for the production of highly realistic sculpture, from larger than life to extremely minature sculptures.

We visited with local sculptor Subir Pal, who has both a shop on the main road for his finished works, as well as a workshop that is just a short walk down a small alleyway near the shop.

DSC_0095Subir Pal’s showroom with cabinet of narrative clay works

DSC_0038His workshop

DSC_0045Workers and apprentices busy with their various tasks.

DSC_0046Subir Pal with work in process


Subir Pal also works in fiberglass (as well as stone, plaster, bronze, and cement).  Check out this cow – sculptural trompe l’oeil – in the photo above.  Photo below, another cow sculpture is stored in the workshop loft.


In the alleyway between workshop and showroom, we encountered the raw, unprepared Krishnagar clay, loaded up onto a bicycle  cart


According to Subir Pal, this clay is so dense that it is as hard as stone without being fired!  I remain skeptical, but hopeful, since he generously gave me a big chunk of the clay to try it out!

DSC_0079These minatures are really amazing!


Below, Subir Pal’s “artist’s reserve” of minature sculptures.  Wow.


A Dentist to Lions

Dilipda is preparing no less than five images for Jagadhatri  Puja, which is celebrated throughout West Bengal and parts of Odissa about one week after Kali Puja (late October to early November) and exactly one month after Durga Puja.

The courtyard outside of Dilip Pal’s Kumartuli studio, where he prepares images for Jagadhatri Puja.

Jagadhatri is considered to be a calm incarnation of Durga.  She is known as the “Holder of the World,” and it is believed that if Jagadhatri is not there,  the world will fall down!   The origins of Jagadhatri Puja are unclear.  One account is that the puja was founded by Sarada Devi, the wife of Ramakrishna.  Jagadhatri celebrations are observed today with great joy in Ramakrishna missions around the world.

Dilip Pal working on a Jagadhatri image at his Kumartuli studio, Kolkata

Today, Dilipda is amusing himself by repeatedly telling me that he is “The Dentist To Lions,”  as he finely sculpts each feline’s memorable dentition.  In researching Jagadhatri’s history and observing the images of many Kumartuli workshops,  I saw reference to both lions and tigers.



Priest performing rites at Jagadhatri Puja
Jagadhatri  image



In addition to being accompanied by a lion/tiger, the three-eyed Jagadhatri is described as being the color of the morning sun.  She holds a conch and a bow in her two left hands and a chakra and a five-headed arrow in her two right hands.




Kumartuli artisan at work on Jagadhatri image

Some of the Jagadhatri images depict the lion stepping upon the elephant demon, Karindrasura, who represents human pride/power.  According to Sri Ramakrishna, “Jagadhatri arises in the heart of a person, who can control the frantic elephant called mind.”

Straw Jagadhatri images-in-process at nighttime, Kumartuli.

Kali Ma

I prefer Kali to Durga.  Why?  Since I’m not exactly sure, I thought I’d use the writing of this post to help figure it out.


In Kolkata, Kali certainly has less fanfare than the almighty Durga, but from my vantage point, Kali’s devotees appear to have as much or maybe even more fervor for their goddess.  While Durga is considered to be the goddess of supreme power, Kali is thought of as the goddess of empowerment.  That strikes a chord in me – copacetic to what I feel and think when making my figurative sculpture in Santa Cruz.

Kali fascinates me — consider her lolling tongue, that rhythmically wonderful strand of severed, grimacing heads around her neck, and DSC_0514her very active gesture of stomping on her consort Lord Shiva (other interpretations are that of accidentally doing so, and also that her foot on his body calms her anger).

Regarding Durga, even with all ten of her hands loaded with weapons, it always appears to me that her lion is doing, well, the lion’s share of the work (sic) when it comes to battling Mahishasura.

Dilipda and his assistants began their Kali in Dilipda’s studio.  DSC_0029Once  the figures of Kali and Shiva had been formed in straw, they moved them to the street outside of the Shovabazar Rajbari, just next to a tiny Shiva shrine.  Over the next several days, a bamboo, cloth and paper pandal was built over and around the figures.  I enjoyed observing this process immensely, because simply by being present in the situation, I became part of  the rhythm of the street.


Netal Pal buiilding up Kali’s strand of demon heads.


Dilipda at final clay detailing stages of his Kali Ma
Dilipda’s Kali, now painted and adorned with flowing black tresses. Dilipda completes the final details on Kali’s consort, Lord Shiva.

















The fabulous Kali figure above stunned me outside another shop in Kumartuli!  Kali Ma!