Internationally renowned photographer Kounteya Sinha is on a new mission to save Kolkata’s iconic heritage places of Kumartuli and Kalighat areas. He has announced his new project – K2 – that aims to attract the youth to their century-old idol making profession in the world’s largest idol making hub in Kolkata.

Internationally renowned writer and photographer Kounteya Sinha’s brilliant new idea – Project K2 – to give a fillip to heritage places of Kumartuli and Kalighat

Love for his grandmother and for the city of Kolkata makes Sinha announce the first of its kind fellowship to save the city’s iconic heritage localities of Kumartuli and Kalighat – home to the idol makers of Bengal.

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Close on the heels of his epic photo exhibition that won hearts, the writer, photographer is back with his new project. We think he is no less than a genius. Or maybe has some sort of Midas Touch – whatever he touches turns to gold.

Also Read: Kounteya Sinha’s Viva: Photography Exhibition to showcase international collection of structures of antiquity to Kolkata

But if you know journalist, photographer, brand guru and one of India’s most sought after names in the world of marketing Kounteya Sinha, you will know one thing for certain – he only listens to his heart. His swelling fan club ranges from royals to presidents, philanthropists to business tycoons.

We have followed his work for years now and have seen how he turns impossible ideas into a raging reality.

And he has done it once again.

Sinha – a world traveller whose advice and counsel is sought by the who’s who of the world has announced the first of its kind fellowship to protect the centuries old tradition of pottery and idol making in Bengal.

Read More: 15 Most Beautiful Photos of Taiwan by Kounteya Sinha 

Kalighat Kumartuli
Photo credits: Kounteya Sinha

Talking to Blackboard, he says: “Five children (maximum age 20) will each be paid Rs 5,000 per month (Rs 25,000) between May 1 and October 1 (six months) to assist and learn the craft of pottery and making idols from their parents who are involved in the trade for decades.

Five different Pujas across Kolkata will be urged to purchase the idols from these five families so that children are motivated to continue learning when they see their work being appreciated.

Kalighat Kumartuli
Photo credits: Kounteya Sinha

Sinha has named it ‘Sarba Mangala Fellowship of Arts’ – named after his grand mother who passed away peacefully in Kolkata on February 21, 2018.”

Sarba Mangala Biswas was 89 and a great lover of Bengal’s art and culture. Sinha says Sarba Mangala is also another name for Goddess Durga which is the commonest idol made both in Kumartuli and Poto Para of Kalighat.

Kalighat Kumartuli
Photo credits: Kounteya Sinha

Sinha calls it Project K2 (the initials of Kalighat and Kumartuli).

Kumartuli and Poto Para in Kalighat are two of the city’s most visited sites – hundreds of artists, photographers and tourists from across the globe walking through its narrow by lanes almost daily to see how men and sometimes female artists spend days in tiny linear rectangular rooms creating some of the most stunning idols you will see.

However, a serious threat looms large over this community that could wipe out the tradition of idol making in Bengal.

Kalighat Kumartuli
Photo credits: Kounteya Sinha

Like in most other hard labour intensive trades like farming, children of the idol makers of Bengal aren’t interested in carrying forward the tradition of clay arts. Lack of high pay, a life of anonymity and long hours of mastering the art have made the next generation shy away from the trade in search for office jobs.

Sinha who has tirelessly campaigned for the rights of these potters fears that if this trend continues, in another 20 years, clay idol making which has been a tradition passed down over generations from father to son will disappear forever from the city.

Sinha who calls Kolkata “his muse” – a city he has returned to after 17 long years of living in Delhi and London says “I expect Kolkata’s heritage lovers to help me in this project. Kumartuli and Poto Para are two of Kolkata’s most loved places. It is our duty as common citizens of Kolkata to help these anonymous artists and push their children into following their father’s footsteps. Or else, Kolkata will lose a major chunk of its history and heritage,” Sinha added.

Kalighat Kumartuli
The photographer’s grandmother Sarba Mangala Biswas. Photo credits: Kounteya Sinha

“My grandmother was a great lover of arts and culture. She in her younger days would love exploring places. I couldn’t think of a person who would be happier to see Kumartuli and Poto Para saved. I have therefore decided to fund the fellowship myself on her name,” Sinha added.

“The chief minister of Bengal Mamata Banerjee is a great artist herself and understands and loves heritage like very few heads of state. This is my way of helping her in a small way in saving the city,” Sinha added.

The Potters of Bengal are known globally for their art. The fan club of this community spreads across the world as Bengali communities living in Europe, US, UK or South America purchase idols of Goddess Durga from here and gets them shipped to their respective countries for the Durga Puja celebrations that take place around October every year.

Sinha who is now an international sensation as a photographer has been shooting in these two localities for the past two years since his return to India from London.

Kounteya is highly respected across the world for taking up brave issues that really matter.

In 2016, he took up the cause of Kolkata’s iconic rickshaw wallas. He for the first time ever made 60 such rickshaw wallas as chief guests for the opening of his stellar show STONE and also managed to rope in veteran actor Om Puri to travel to Kolkata to embrace the rickshaw wallas and interact with them. Puri played the part of a rickshaw wall in the famous film City of Joy.

He recently campaigned for Kolkata’s dying heritage that brought the city to a standstill. He joined the Calcutta Heritage Collective and unveiled his 2018 summer repertoire VIVA which was probably one of the most acclaimed and talked about show Kolkata has ever seen.

The city’s entire glitterati attended VIVA that means alive in Spanish.

Historians say the settlement of idol-makers and clay modellers is almost as old as the city itself.

During the peak season, there are about 1600 artists or karigars (craftsmen) who come into these localities to work from various parts of Bengal.

There has been a marked decline in interest among youngsters to take up the tradition of idol making from their fathers.