BENGALURU: Ganesh Chaturthi is just around the corner and the century-old Pottery Town in Bengaluru is back to buzzing again. The otherwise quiet town, which is now just a lane, is where all the famous clay Ganesha idols are made and sold. Artisans here have been crafting the idols for generations.
Though they have their hands full with work, they earn only a fistful. Owing to minimal profits, a lot of people here have stopped making clay Ganesha idols. Today, they just bring it from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra and sell it here.
But for Chinna Raju (64), pottery is about continuing the family tradition. Raju has been making clay Ganesha idols for the last 50 years and he is the sole maker of Thoppa Ganesha (Ganesha with a big stomach).
The idols, made only from clay, are just 2 feet tall and weigh around 30 kg.
Raju’s grandfather Chamaraj Wodeyar (named after the Mysore royal) came down from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka in the early 1900s. Raju’s father Munsami Wodeyar learnt the art from his father and taught it to Raju when he was just 10 years old. “When I was in school, I used to assist my father in making the Ganesha idols. Today, starting from stomping and mixing the mud to moulding the clay to giving the finishing touches, I do everything by myself,” he says.
Raju has only partial vision. But, that has not stopped him from making these exceptional idols. He crafts around 40 to 50 Ganesha idols every year, all by himself. Mud for the idols is brought from Hosakote. “Though there is a huge demand, I can’t increase the number. If I take more orders, I won’t be able to concentrate much. For me each idol has to be perfect,” he asserts.
He now makes idols for only regular customers, who have been placing orders since his father’s time.
His wife Lakshmi recalls how her father-in-law could afford more than 10 labourers and now they can’t even afford one. “They demand ransom,” she says.
“When it rains, water seeps through the roof. We save the idols by covering it with plastic. The money in this business is so less that I can’t afford anything but only bread and butter to my family,” Raju laments.
His son Rajesh, however, doesn’t want to carry forward the legacy. He says that there is not much profit in this. Raju, cuts the conversation and asserts that profit is not what he wants from this. “It takes around three days to make a Ganesha idol and costs around `600. We sell it for `700. I’m only doing this because the art should not vanish, at least till I am alive,” he says.
Post Ganesha season, the family makes clay pots and utensils. The demand, Raju says, is only going down.
In this fast-paced life that revolves around gadgets, a lot of traditional skills have been lost forever. One among them is pottery. Pottery, as a craft, grew in the bosom of civilisation. Over the years, people moved from clay to plastics leaving the potters devastated. Pottery Town too seems to be still recovering from th e big blow.