Over decades, it is Muslims who design tableaux for Cuttack’s Durga Puja

The Alis family has got contracts from various Puja Committees in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela and even Hyderabad as people love their finished work, he said.

Asalam Ali family

Displaying a complex and rich depiction of India’s rich tradition of syncretic culture, the Cuttacks Banka Bazar-based Aslam Ali’s family has been creating tableaux or jari medha for Durga Puja for generations with vigour and devotion. Ali, as reported by the Munsifdaily, said that his entire family has been engaged in the preparation of various decorative items made up of polythene, thermocol and ropes etc for the Durga Puja celebrations. Besides, they also design headgear and jewellery for Goddess Durga and other deities throughout the year.

The family has received contracts from various Puja Committees in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela and even Hyderabad as people love the quality of their finished work, he said.

“We have been doing the work for the last four generations. During my childhood, my grandfather used to do jari medha. He had also been felicitated by the British government for his fantastic work. I have heard that my grandfather’s father was also doing the same job,” Ali said. After the demise of Aslam Ali’s grandfather, his father took over and now his entire family is busy preparing the decorative items.

“We feel happy doing such work which further strengthens our brotherhood. Because of this work, we get a chance to meet renowned persons of our society and they also felicitate us,” said the Muslim artist. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the business had been severely affected the past two years.

Sayeeda Bibi said she has been part of the preparation of jari medha for more than 25 years. “When I was a kid, I saw my uncle making jari medha. So, I learnt the art of making jari medha from my uncle. We do it not just for the sake of keeping the traditions of our forefathers alive but we enjoy it,” she said.

She is part of the many Muslim families who have been designing the tableaux in Durga Puja pandals for generations Rehmat Khan (62), another Muslim artist, said he started doing the tableaux when he was 18 years old. The Puja organisers also treat them nicely and there are no differences, he said.

Clearly, the Durga Puja festivities in Cuttack are incomplete without Muslims participation. Undeterred by any displays of religious intolerance, the Muslim artisans of the city have been designing the backdrop of the Durga Puja Pandals every year. Not only for Durga Puja, they also create and design similar items for other Pujas like Laxmi Puja, Kali Puja, Ganesh Puja. The rest of the year, day after day, they prepare mukuts (headwear) for Hindu grooms and brides.



Related Articles