At one point in time, the skies of North Calcutta would be filled with sky lanterns, or Fanush as they are called in Bengali. The skies would be dotted with these specks of light, as they soared higher and higher carrying with them this extraordinary passion of Fanush-making.
Fanush-making is an art that demands painstaking amounts of patience to see it come to fruit. It is a delicate and fragile process. The steadier the hands the better the Fanush. This was a tradition that was especially common in the aristocratic households of North Calcutta. All the members of the family would come together and contribute to the making of the Fanush, which were then in turn released during Diwali or other auspicious occasions.
Sachin Kumar Mukherjee, the ‘Fanush Manush’ of Kolkata, has been making fanushes for the last 64 years. Fanush cast its irresistible spell on him when he first witnessed Gouri Shankar De’s fanush creations take the skies. No class taught him how to make the masterpieces he makes, instead he learnt from hours of observing his hero, Gouri Shankar De make the fanush.
Now he remains one of the last, few Fanush-makers in the city.He says, “Houses are becoming smaller and lanes are becoming narrower, most people prefer living in apartments with no space at all. Traditions are being forgotten and there is a severe lack of time and will power.” Today, the whirlwind that life has become, such families don’t exist anymore and the Fanush has become a rare sight.
There is a house on Beadon street wherein this art is still being kept alive. Every year for Kali Puja, the Dutta household at Bholanath Dham release Fanushes. This is a tradition that has never faltered since the 1920s and has inspired many to be a Fanush-enthusiast ever since.