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Meet Kumartuli’s Icon Who Broke The Mold & Became The 1st Woman Sculptor of Durga Puja Idols

Idol-making was once a highly male-dominated profession. Mala Pal broke tradition by joining her brother after their father passed away. Now, she runs a school that imparts this centuries-old craft to future generations.

Meet Kumartuli’s Icon Who Broke The Mold & Became The 1st Woman Sculptor of Durga Puja Idols

Despite having a natural flair for making idols, Mala Pal was not allowed to enter her father’s workshop only because she was a woman. Wanting to explore her talents, she decided to join her brother in idol-making when her father passed away.

“It was by sheer chance that I got to complete an idol and deliver it to the client one day. My brother, who was to work on it, got caught up elsewhere due to bad weather. With a deadline looming large, I took on the work as a challenge and completed it. Everyone was happy with the outcome and that was when I started getting noticed,” she recalls.

In Kolkata’s famed potter’s quarter Kumartuli, the business of making idols has long been male-dominated. The locality is the centre of the magic and frenzy of Durga Puja, the biggest festival in West Bengal. It is in the small lanes of Kumartuli where hundreds of idols are made and shipped to the city and suburbs.

Despite society’s resistance for a woman to make idols, Mala jumped at the opportunity to help her brother. Today her unique foldable miniature Durga idols have a customer base in places like Australia, Canada and Europe.

Additionally, she also runs a school that teaches idol-making and aims to pass on this centuries-old craft to the coming generations.

“In my class, I even have students as young as seven and eight years of age. They come because they are keen on learning. Even if a few of these students decide to take this up professionally, I will feel accomplished,” she says.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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