Mala Pal’s journey into idol-making in Kolkata’s Kumartuli was not planned. Instead, it was an opportunity that arose out of necessity, and she seized it with determination. Although male-dominated, Kolkata’s idol crafting in Kumartuli resisted women’s participation. Fate intervened when Mala stepped in due to weather constraints.
With the deadline fast approaching and the need to complete the idol, Mala stepped up to the challenge. She took on the responsibility, dived into the task, and completed the idol. This unexpected foray into idol-making proved to be a turning point. The outcome met expectations and garnered praise and attention, setting Mala on an unforeseen path in the world of craftsmanship.
Kumartuli, a neighborhood steeped in the fervor of Durga Puja, has been historically dominated by male artisans. This locality has stood as the nucleus of idol creation for the grand festival celebrated across West Bengal. Mala’s journey into this male-dominated space was marked by society’s resistance to the idea of a woman creating idols. However, her determination and passion for the craft fueled her persistence.
Today, Mala Pal has gained renown for her unique foldable miniature Durga idols, which have garnered admirers in Australia, Canada, and Europe. Her innovation and creativity have carved a niche in an industry traditionally resistant to change. Additionally, she has taken up the mantle of passing down this centuries-old craft to the next generations.
Mala runs a school teaching idol-making, welcoming aspiring artisans of all ages, even as young as seven or eight. She aims to nurture a new generation of passionate idol-makers dedicated to preserving this age-old craft.
She envisions a future where her students may choose to pursue idol-making professionally, thereby ensuring the legacy of this beautiful art form. In doing so, Mala Pal is crafting idols, reshaping the narrative of Kumartuli, and challenging gender norms in the world of craftsmanship.
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