Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tour of Kumartuli with Calcutta Walks

We had a wonderful tour with Calcutta Walks again this morning. We started out at the Hooghly River watching the wrestlers on the river bank and seeing people doing their morning rituals. The mighty Howrah bridge in the background is where millions of cars and people cross everyday. At 6:30 on a Saturday it was full of pedestrians, families in carts, men pushing carts with goods, cars, trucks and buses.

We then strolled through the flower market. This picture is of marigold sellers. We learned that the marigold holds a special place in Hinduism, since flowers represent a blessing from a god and the marigold is believed to be 10 flowers in one.

Here was a cow that was just moving along in the pedestrian flow, like she has done many times before.

We went to visit a crematorium (just the outside!) and this was one of the many stores catering to the grieving. It is a photo studio were one can have a picture of the deceased made.

A lot of the laborers in Kolkata come from a Bihar, one of the poorest states in India that is also close to Kolkata. This photo is of a food vendor that specializes in the food from Bihar. There are grilled chick pea balls stuffed with spices on the grill. I loved his set-up. It looks like he took the clay from the river and made himself a very modern-looking shop.

Kumartuli is a section of North Kolkata that is home to the many artisans that made idols, mostly for the very popular Durga Puja festival, which we attended last October. The idols are made from a foundation of straw, covered and sculpted with clay from the river, painted and then dressed with clothes and ornaments. Most of the idols we saw were ready for painting and dressing since Durga Puja is less than a month away.

This photo is of an artist's studio floor.

Ifte told us of the history of Durga Puja, how the celebration really became a major one during the nationalism movement, since leaders saw it and other popular festivals throughout India as a way to demonstrate national pride and rally people together. Today over 200,000 people come to Kolkata to join the 13 million locals in the celebration. Take a look at some of our posts from last October to get a feel for the finished idols: At the Height of the Puja Season, A Pandal of Generosity, More Puja Photos, Durga Drums and Closing the Puja Season.

On our walk we ran into this building being demolished, Kolkata style.

No better way to end the walk that we incredible Bengali sweets. If I hadn't eaten a bagel for breakfast I would have consumed so much more.

Thanks, Ifte. If you are in Kolkata look them up or check out the new walking tours of India portal they are leading at

Related Post: Saturday Morning with Calcutta Walks


Iftekhar Ahsan said...

Thanks Natalie for all the compliments! Great writeup.

Will come soon to discuss Walks Of India with you.

sourabh said...

I have started liking your blog and added it to my favourite at I am in the process of compiling the blog.

Pictures are nice and nice perspective.

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Thanks sourabh!