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When a Muslim creates a Hindu god


GUWAHATI, Oct 4 - Sitting in a plastic chair in a shade on the premises of Bishnupur HS School, he oversees some four dozen men who are carving out a stunning Durga idol just a few metres away. Occasionally, he instructs the workers and tries to put them through their paces. At times, he goes near the idol to give the final touches.

Fifty-nine-year-old artiste Nuruddin Ahmed is the man behind three thematic Durga Puja celebrations in the city � the Rehabari Bilpar Puja and Christianbasti Sarbajanin Puja, besides the celebrations of the Bishnupur Sarbajanin Durga Puja Committee, which has roped him in for the sixth consecutive year. And despite being a Muslim, Ahmed has no qualms about his work.

�There is no religion in art. It�s creation. Not everyone can do it. Fortunately, no one from any quarter has ever opposed me,� Ahmed says, as he continues to instruct the workers intermittently.

Hailing from Nalbari, Ahmed�s first tryst with the Hindu gods started in 1975 when he had crafted the Durga idol at the celebrations held at Lakhimpur�s Bazarpatty area. �Initially, I must admit I did it for money. But in no time it became a passion. I came to Guwahati in 1983. In 1985, I had made the idol at the Ganeshguri celebrations,� he says.

�I have two sons, Raj and Deep. One has left a lucrative company job to assist me. The other has completed his masters in visual communications and he too has joined the trade. Every year, we shell out several crores of rupees to people from outside the State in the name of these celebrations. Why can�t we ourselves prepare the idols, pandals and the lightings. Less than five per cent of the lighting works in the city is being done by locals,� Ahmed points out.

The Durga idol being erected at Bishnupur is 82 feet tall and the design seeks to send out a message against drug abuse. The demon resembles a drug peddler, while in a cavern beneath the idol, there are various depictions of the human body and the damage drugs, smoking and alcohol can cause to them. Ahmed has used thermocol, clay, bamboo and plaster of Paris for the work.

�I believe such occasions should send out a message. Some one lakh people will visit the place during the puja days. Even if we can impact ten people, our purpose is met. Every artiste has a responsibility. His duty is to give a message to the people through his work,� Ahmed says.

The Durga Puja celebration at Rehabari Bilpar is based on the theme �Save Earth, Save Trees�.

However, Ahmed admits that his work, in a way, is veneration of the God. �There is contentment, a spiritual one... at the end of it. I also follow the Hindu norms and customs while at the pandal.�

The locals too have no reservations about a Muslim making the Durga idol.

�They (Ahmed�s team) have a class. They work as a unit. We have no issues whatsoever. In fact, we respect them and we felicitate them after the conclusion of the celebrations,� says a local, Ashim Chakraborty.

Ahmed has also made a number of tableaux and pavilions for government and private agencies, besides sets for movies.

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