The tradition of idol worshipping is as ancient as the garden-variety festivals celebrated by the Hindu community across the world. It is a cult that survives to this day and specially so on major religious occasions like Biswakarma Puja and Durga Puja, when devotees throng the idol sites to display an extravagant worship as a commemoration to their faith.Moulding dough of clay to give a perfect shape to which will soon become one of the many idols of deities around him in his temporary base in the Thapathali banks of Bagmati River in Kathmandu, artisan Dilip Murtikar instructs his assistants to start the paint job on the semi-finished clay statues.

Although Pal is Dilip’s original family name, he prefers to introduce himself as a Murtikar, which literally means a sculptor. The Pal community hails from West Bengal in India where the caste Pal would signify their artisan skills.Dilip migrated to Nepal two years ago, while exploring for a new market and he had never imagined, he’d be calling it home. And despite load shedding and break-even business, Dilip wants to see if he can make it here.“Clients (usually Marwari & Bengali community) want the idols at a cheap price but they don’t realize the meticulous hours it takes to make one,” he says, “A special kind of clay is required to make these idols and has to be brought from India.”The idol cult is also significant within the Pal community, their major deities being Manasa Devi, Santoshi Mata and Lord Vishnu. “Whenever someone from the community leaves the village for work, the idol of deity Kali is worshipped on their return.”

In the recent Viswakarma Puja, Dilip together with his wife, daughter and son-in-law and two assistants gave shape to some 127 idols. As Dashain nears, Dilip and his crew are busy making idols of Goddess Durga.

Dilip gives final touches to Goddess Durga’s head which will eventually be attached to the torso.
An assistant sprays primary paint on the larger-than-life-sized semi-finished clay statues.
Dilip prepares color in coconut cover.
Dilip gives a final touch to Goddess Durga’s idol as he paints the jaw lines of a lion.
Load shedding has hurt Dilip’s work hard. Using torchlight, he adorns the statue, he adorns the statue of Lord Vishwakarma.
In his makeshift base on the Thapathali banks of Bagmati River, Dilip’s daughter serves the first meal of the day to her husband (Left) and two assistants.
At a small eatery run by Gautam “Bangali” near Indra Chowk, idols made by Dilip are on sale.
Dilip’s works are on display and for sale at another small joint run by Nitai “Bangali” inside Koila Galli at Indra Chowk.
In the cotton shop of “Bangali Dada” at Teku, a priest chants mantras during the puja of Lord Vishwakarma.
The idols of Lord Vishwakarma in Bengali Dada’s shop is shaped by Dilip.
The cult of idol worship always concludes with the Visarjan rituals, Devotees carry the idol of deities around town (Visarjan Yatra) before they reach a holy riverside.
Devotees immerse the idol of Lord Vishwakarma in the waters as per the Visarjan rituals. There are many interpretations and connotations associated with it.

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