VISAKHAPATNAM: Ahead of Ganesh Pooja, expert clay idol-makers from West Bengal are in the city to make artistic eco-friendly idols. Though there has been an increase in the awareness on clay idols, their prices have skyrocketed with increasing cost of clay, say the idol makers.
Senior craftsman SN Raghu who has been making idols for the last 54 years, says: “As the cost of clay is increasing, customers are unable to afford them which is causing a drop in the sales. Customers are looking at the cost first. The art and efforts that go behind making the idols take a backseat.”
Adding to the woes of the artisans who employ workers from West Bengal, the cost of transport of clay, binding grass and wood required for making the idols, from Kolkata to Visakhapatnam, has also become expensive. The use of the biodegradable natural colours has also made the idols pricey this year, says Raghu who now employs about 15 Bengali workers.
“Many artisans do not like to follow the time-taking technique required to make these idols, instead, they go for moulds in Plaster of Paris (PoP) which costs less,” said Raghu.
Unhappy with the lack of support from the government and drop in the profits in the last three years, Raghu says, “There is no value for clay idols now. Even artists do not get support from the government. But the workers who come from West Bengal are able to make a living in the city for a few months with the festival, earning about `25,000 to `40,000, depending on experience.”
Raghu who has been thinking of quitting the profession, however, got the motivation and is now focussing on making a 40-foot idol at Chinna Waltair area in the city.
Ramesh Paul, a migrant artisan from West Bengal, has been in the profession for the last 12 years. “As the festive season begins, we move to Vizag and start making idols. This time, we are making idols as per orders from the customers and we go back satisfied with the earnings during the period. But we have to look for other jobs till the next year,” he said.
An idol-maker from Akkayyapalem, S Ramana, has been making clay idols for the last 40 years and says that he has stopped making big idols as there is demand only for small ones and that too from local NGOs and other organisations. The cost of idols at his store start at `10.
“It has been about 10 years that I have been listening to the government campaign against the use of PoP. But there has been no change and besides, the clay cost has also increased,” added Ramana, who takes up pottery after the festival season.
“There are only a few takers for these idols. I wish they stop looking only at the cost and understand that the making of the idols itself costs high. Besides we make them with a lot of patience and love. We are happy that there are still some customers who come back to us every year,” said Noba Kumar Dindi, a migrant artisan.
“We are making 16-foot Ganesh idol that would be installed at Marripalem. We are now working only by order. Else, we would be left with no takers,” says Noba who will be heading back to Kolkata, the native place after the season.