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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
In pictures: Making a deity

The Durga idol

A tableau of the Hindu goddess Durga was made for the British Museum Voices of Bengal season, to coincide with the Durga Puja festival. (Photos provided by the museum)

Craftsmen work on the straw model of the lion

Skilled craftsmen from West Bengal were brought in, for whom the installation is also an act of devotion. First, the god figures were sculpted out of bamboo and straw.

A craftsman coats the Durga idol with clay

The idol was then covered with several layers of clay and mud. A small amount of River Ganges mud and cow dung was brought from India to 'purify' the sculpture.

The tableau in clay

Here the clay stage is complete. The goddess, revered as mother of the universe, is astride a lion killing the buffalo demon Mahesha. She is flanked by her four children.

A craftsman paints eyes on the Durga idol

The figures are then coloured and the master craftsman paints the eyes on the idols, known as Chakshudan. This symbolises the gods inhabiting the figures.

Visitors at the British Museum look at the tableau in progress

Once the painting was complete, a decorated arched backdrop embellished with traditional drawings was added to the tableau.

The completed tableau

The slaying of the demon, representing good triumphing over evil, is the most popular form of Durga's image in Bengal. The sculpture will be immersed in the Thames on 2 October.

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