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Arts

Enigmatic potters gear up for West Bengal's most important religious festival

Kolkata's expert artisans give life to the most beloved legend

A Kumar takes a break from relentless work in front of the clay goddesses he just finished sculpting. When completed, the figures are taken out of the sweatshops and exposed in the sun to dry. (Photo by Kit Yeng Chan)
A Kumar takes a break from relentless work in front of the clay goddesses he just finished sculpting. When completed, the figures are taken out of the sweatshops and exposed in the sun to dry. (Photo by Kit Yeng Chan)

KOLKATA -- In a cramped, humid and dimly lit sweatshop, a row of giant women, each with 10 arms lie in wait. The bare walls are so narrow that their limbs lock into each other, shining under a solitary naked light bulb swinging overhead.

A man wrapped in a checkered sarong stands before them. Using a wooden tool, he smears clay over their bodies, carefully leveling the raw material to form hips and stomachs. It is the beginning of September, and the man's tired face shows the signs of days spent working around the clock. "The puja is coming up soon, and the orders never stop," he says. "We are at the busiest time of the year."

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