CHENNAI : In front of a house in MGR Nagar, Manali, a plastic sheet with a thick layer of mud on top, is laid. N Shanmugam, a traditional potter-clay doll maker comes out and starts stomping the sludge. “This process has to be repeated at least five times a day to ensure the sand is in good consistency to make quality Vinayagar idols,” he says. His wife, S Sumathi, takes us inside their house and walks us through the process of making clay Vinayagar. “After he stomps and kneads the clay, it is filled into the moulds. There are over 108 Vinayagar designs. We stick to the basic ones. Once set, it is removed from the mould, and we let it dry,” she says pointing to two feet-tall earthen dolls arranged in their living room.
The dolls are priced between `100-`200 and are sold in MMDA Colony. “On an average, we make around 300-400 Vinayagar dolls, and usually everything gets sold. In case we have unsold pieces, we just store it in our house. It can’t be used later,” explains Shanmugam who has been making dolls and earthenware for over four decades. “We are from the Kulalar community and this has been our profession for generations. There was a phase when pillaiyars made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) became the public favourite. But now, with awareness on eco-friendly products, everyone has turned towards the traditional ones and we couldn’t be happier,” he grins, as he cuts a chunk of clay from the mound.
Kosapet, another hub for sand Vinayagar dolls, bustles with activity throughout the day. “We start work early in the morning and wrap it up by 6 pm. This is the season we all wait for. We sell thousands of dolls every year,” says Samandhamurthy, a doll maker in Sachithanandham Street, off Mooku Street.
“There were about 2,000 families in the area who were into making dolls, but now it has dwindled to a mere 50 or 60. They have either moved to a different profession or migrated to different areas,” says the sexagenarian who offers to teach the art to anyone who’s interested. “People can come here and learn. I am ready to teach,” he beams. The dolls crafted by Samandhamurthy and his family, come in different shapes and sizes. “The customer can come here and choose a design. We will make it accordingly. The price is not fixed; it varies from `300-`500,” he says.
With more people opting for eco-friendly Vinayagars, this season has gotten green in every way possible. Arthi Lal of Mudakaram will be selling two-feet tall palm leaf Vinayagar dolls. “They’ll be priced between `1,500 and `2, 000,” she says. Arthi will also conduct a workshop on palm leaf Vinayagar making on September 12. “It’s something different and eco-friendly. These leaves will dry up and wither away. A perfect alternative,” she says.
Rashmi Sunil of Harith Tharang is selling green Ganeshas made of vetiver and clay pillaiyars with seeds embedded in them. “Instead of immersing it in water after Ganesh Chaturthi, the seed Ganesha can be watered every day. It will grow into wonderful herbal plants like the tulsi. The vetiver Ganesha freshens up your home and is anti-bacterial. The number of orders we have been receiving has crossed previous year’s record. It shows that everyone’s becoming conscious about the environment,” she says. The seed and vetiver Ganeshas are priced at `190 and `125 onwards.
Buy your Ganeshas
Sangeeni’s - Rise the Earth, will also sell one-feet seed Ganeshas. Contact: 7358552372
Harith Tharang, contact: 9600120351
Mudakaram, contact: 9840994263