ABSTRACT

The Bengali Kumars or Kumbhakars belong to the pan-Indian potter caste ( jati ). They have discarded the potter’s wheel since few want their products. While most have entered into other occupations, some still work with clay. In parts of Bengal, they make a living making murtis , statues, of unbaked clay. And in Kolkata, the Kumars of Kumartuli 1 (neighbourhood of potters) form the last of the city’s larger caste-based neighbourhoods. Its narrow streets are packed with seemingly traditional artisans employing age-old techniques to create sacred statues integral to ancient religious traditions. Thus, they might appear like survivors of a long-lost tradition untouched by political, cultural and economic changes within the society at large.