Clay Pillaiyars find few takers as PoP rules - The New Indian Express

Clay Pillaiyars find few takers as PoP rules

Published: 10th September 2013 07:40 AM

Last Updated: 10th September 2013 08:40 AM

Even during an intensely traditional and cultural festival like Vinayaga Chathurti, PoP rules. Surprised? Don’t be. It’s not the music genre we’re talking about, but the sheer dominion of Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols over their clay counterparts in Chennai’s markets. Traditionally, people bring home idols of Ganesha/Vinayaga on the festival day and immerse them in the sea nine days later. As idols made of PoP are easier to work with and have a smoother finished texture, manufacturers and retailers have almost entirely stocked up on PoP idols this year. This despite the fact that the TN Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has issued guidelines that only unbaked clay idols are to be produced and used.

“They (PoP idols) look better. People, especially the younger customers, don’t want traditional idols anymore; they want cricket Ganeshas, computer Ganeshas...and one little girl asked me for a Kolaveri Ganesha, whatever that is,” said Kameswaran, a vendor who was having brisk sales at the Vadapalani-Trustpuram market. He added that almost none of these ‘fancy’ varieties could be made using clay as it wasn’t easy to work with. “They also get damaged easily and the rain is fatal for them. So we like the maavu (colloquial name for PoP) variety better,” he said. His sales ‘neighbour’ Virudu chipped in that they had been getting requests for clay till last year, but hardly anyone had asked this time around.

After doing the rounds of markets in Parrys, Triplicane, Kodambakkam and K K Nagar, one of the few people selling ungainly, misshapped, clay idols was 64-year-old Parvathammal in Kodambakkam, “This is for people who can’t afford to pay Rs 300 and Rs 1,000 for a big, fancy colourful Pillaiyar. My idols are simple and cost Rs 50. Some women from the kuppam near Trustpuram said they didn’t have much so I let them have it for Rs 30. Others are selling the ‘plastic’ (PoP) ones because they can make more money, but I believe this is the best,” she said. Starting from auto drivers to residents association in apartments the festival was celebrated by people not just within families, but also with the community. “Today we prepared sweet Pongal in our auto stand itself to mark the celebration. We didn’t celebrateit as a religious festival, drivers from across the religions took part in the function today,” said Saravanan, an auto driver at Choolaimedu.

Though the Vinayagar temples in the T Nagar and Kodambakkam were full at 7.30 am, vendors in Pondy Bazaar said that their sales were “lacklustre” after 11 am. “Six years ago, we had sales till 9 pm at night. Now, its noon and do you see anyone coming in?” asked an almost-bitter Perumal, who came in from Walajahbad to set up shop on the pavement — a practice he has had for the last decade. He hoped that people would come in at least when the blistering hot sun set. The sun did subside, but it was replaced by a gloomy sky with sudden showers breaking out at 3.30 pm. With pandals being set up in several localities around Chennai for large ‘area-owned’ idols to be installed, people were seen worriedly rushing for tarpaulin covers. “We have collected Rs 57,000 from people in the area and ordered this 25-foot Pillaiyar almost two months ago. If it keeps raining it will all be ruined,” said a worried youth near the tennis stadium in Nungambakkam.

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