Kuila: A National Award Winning Pandal Artist But Still Toils To Make A Decent Living.

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Kuila is a leading name in pandal art is a native of Purba Medinipur, Birinchibasan village.

Kuila is himself a self-taught artist who had no training in this area whatsoever.

Born in a poor, agricultural family, Kuila was expected to carry on with the tradition by taking on his family profession.

I SPENT SEVERAL YEARS WORKING WITH MY FATHER, UNCLES, AND BROTHERS ON THE FARM BEFORE I CHOSE TO DEVOTE ALL MY TIME TO ART. MY HEART WAS NEVER INTO FARMING AND I SPENT MOST OF MY TIME DRAWING AND CREATING LITTLE ARTWORKS EVER SINCE I CAN REMEMBER.

Kuila started his journey 25 years ago. But it was in 2002 that he rose to national fame by winning the National Award for handicrafts.

And then there was no looking back for the self-taught artist.

This year, Kuila and his 150-member team have worked on four Durga Puja pandals commissioned by some of the oldest and biggest Pujo organizers: Barisha Club, 41 Pally Club, Mudiali Club and Tridhara Sammillani.

Kuila’s staggering success has inspired many others to follow his suit. Some 200-odd farmers living in and around his village are now doubling up their day jobs as the pandal makers during the Puja season.

WE OWE OUR NEW LIVES TO Durga maa, WHO TOOK US UNDER her WINGS. IT’S BECAUSE OF Her THAT WE ARE NOT LOOKED UPON AS ORDINARY TILLERS BUT ARTISTS.

Every pandal worker from rural Bengal echoes this sentiment.

WE LIVE FOR THE PUJAS. DURGA PUJA IS THE TIME FOR US TO SHOWCASE OUR ARTISTRY AND IMPROVE OUR STANDING AS AN ARTIST.

But for the poor artisans, Durga Puja art is more than just a creative outlet. It is an opportunity to improve their lives and the standard of living.

What pandal makers earn during the two-three months of Pujas far outstrips the annual income made from farming.

Says Kuila.

Below are some works done by Kuila and his group:

But in spite of the accolades and recognition, the money Kuila gets is really below par as compared to the job he does. He earns as less as 10000 INR for each pandal every year.

On the other hand, there are these modern artists who charge heavy for the comparatively minimal work they do for pandals nowadays.

A modern artist of good repute can expect anywhere between Rs 1 million to Rs 2 million per pandal. For any supervising person or head of that modern art group, the fees are even higher.

So basically the lack of academic credibility affects men like Kuila as he makes just INR 300 after toiling hard for a day.

FOR YEARS, OUR MAIN SOURCE OF SUSTENANCE WAS AGRICULTURE BUT NOW IT IS A SUPPLEMENTARY INCOME.

But these men still work without remorse as Kuila says-

THE JOY OF SEEING SEVERAL THOUSAND PEOPLE STANDING IN LONG QUEUES TO SEE AND APPRECIATE OUR LABOR OF LOVE IS SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY.

So, the matter of concern that dominates here is there is a rising imbalance between the rural and urban artists in Pandal making.

Where on one side a National Award winning artist Kuila receives so less of an amount of the extensive hard work he does with his team, the newer less-experienced modern artist takes away so much more despite their less labor and dedication for the project. What differentiates here is one line of academic tag that the rural labors are lacking for most obvious reasons.

However, we cannot say everything is that gloomy for a change. Things are though slowly but are changing for good, thanks to a growing demand for designing pandals for weddings, parties and corporate events.