Soil From Sonagachi And Durga Idol Making

Soil from the sinful land is used to carve idols during Durga Pujo. The reason continues to remain a mystery!

As Durga Pujo is round-the-corner, a particular Kumortuli in Kolkata goes into delirium. Kumortuli is the land of artisans in Kolkata. In layman’s language, Kumors are people who carve the idols for the Pujas.

Mud from the banks of the holy river Ganges, cow dung, cow urine and a fistful of soil from a certain nissidho palli (forbidden land) go into making the blessed mixture. Now, the question arises, where does one find the sacred soil from nishiddho palli?

A Kumor giving finishing touches to the idols in Kumortoli. Photo Courtesy : https://goo.gl/UHlZfk

A Kumor giving finishing touches to the idols in Kumortoli. Photo Courtesy : https://goo.gl/UHlZfk

The answer is Sonagachi

For starters, Sonagachi is one of Asia’s, if not world’s largest red-light area, situated in Kolkata. This particular red-light area houses an estimated 10,000 sex workers, all crammed into small rooms, forced to sacrifice their dignity night after night. The living conditions here are depressing. The rooms are dingy and insufficiently lit. But, these sex-workers aren’t complaining at all because they have, by now, accepted this as their scripted destiny.

There is no factual information as to how and when the custom of sourcing punya matti (blessed soil) from this forbidden land came into being. But, as is the long practiced custom, the priest must beg for the soil from the sex worker. As the soil is being scooped and handed out, the priest has to recite a specific chant.

It is as if the destiny turns it’s tables, only for a short time though.

Durga Idol 2011 Gariahat Kolkata

But, why is the soil from this sinful land considered holy?

Over the years, many reasons have been attached to this practice. Some believe this custom is an attempt to include the section that is considered the most forbidden and sinful. All sex workers are considered beneath any social strata. Then, why do this once a year and boycott them again, once the Puja is done with?

It is also believed that when a person visits these women, they leave all their piousness and virtues on their doorstep and enters into a world of sin. So, the soil at the doorstep is assumed to have absorbed all the virtue and piety of all those who visit these areas. Hence, the soil is considered blessed.

Some believe that this custom originated as a way of paying tribute to the courtesans, who are renowned for their proficiency in the arts. But, the very definition of “courtesans” has changed vastly with the passage of time.

No one knows the exact reason behind this custom. Till this day, the residents of Sonagachi are perturbed by them. No matter what, the custom is applicable.

By the time you read this article, the punya mati from the nissidho pallis, would have been gathered and the idols fully-carved for this year’s Durga Pujo.

But, what if there is another reason behind this custom?

Maybe, this custom wants to convey that no one should be left behind and that no one should be boycotted. After all, we are all composed of the same soil and dissolve in the same soil.

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