High Quality Ganapati Bappa Idols from Dhoolpet

| August 27, 2011 | 0 Comments
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A walk through Dhoolpet is hindered by extremely narrow roads and bulging traffic for one, and pavements lined with idols of different girths and sizes, not mentioning the degree of brightness, courtesy the paints used. These idols start accumulating on the street about two weeks before the festivities begin. A keen eye will show you houses packed with a multitude of idols, which eventually start spilling out on to the roads. While the festive air might begin for the rest of us only a few days before the actual puja, these people start celebrating from the day they begin working on sculpting the idols. And what a mammoth celebration indeed!

Yogendar has been designing and sculpting idols since he was a child.
Thirty odd years later, he has taken over the craft from his father and mother, while his brother manages the business and marketing side of the profession. With his team, he produces about 120 to150 idols a year. But business has been a little slow this year with only 90 idols under construction. “We’ve had a few problems this year because we haven’t been able to employ steady labour.

They stick around for a while and then push-off. But in order to complete the project, we need a solid six months commitment,” he explains, continuing, “Our designs this year have been a a little more intricate and that has taken time. That factor coupled with fluctuating labour has cut down on our number this year.”

Most of his idols are about 10 feet high and eight feet wide. Each of these require a minimum labour of eight and maximum of 15 working on it. The more detail, the more number. The process begins with the artisans making a mould with a particular kind a rubber that is sourced from Pune. The mould is set on a cast made of a mix of black soil, coconut fibre and plaster. When the mould is ready, plaster of paris is applied on the inside of the mould, and the fibre is stuck on it to provide support. The cast takes about an hour to dry after which the rubber mould is separated from the idol. A jig saw of pieces are made separately and put together. A final coating of plaster and then begins the painting. The entire process takes about two days’ time.

Artisans rent out empty spaces in the area and work there. Sudeep Tiwari, a local representative who also indulges in social work, has let out two of such spaces to Yogendar for Rs 50,000 and Rs 70,000 respectively. Besides, paying rent, Yogendar spends on wages and materials. Some of the material, like the rubber mould, can be used only once and is not recyclable at all. These costs accumulate to around a neat Rs 12 lakhs. However, on an average, he only gets back around Rs 5 lakhs. “It’s always risky business. Customers are always looking for a better model at a cheaper price. Our special design for this year, a Balaji-styled Ganesh, has a lot of detail and should actually go at a price of Rs 50,000. But nobody is willing to pay, so I’m forced to sell it at Rs 40,000. It’s a huge margin.”
Also, adding to his woes are the random Rajasthani immigrants that have set-up tents on the outskirts of the city. “They sell at half the price we do since their workmanship is much less, plus they don’t have rent charges to bother with.” Unfortunately, the business doesn’t afford them the luxury of a fixed clientèle. “We come up with new designs every year. That may or may not appeal to someone who has purchased from us before. So I get new customers every time. It’s an open market and everybody is everybody’s customer.”
Yogendar’s idols begin at the price range of Rs 4,000 and climb up till Rs 50,000. The price at which he sells his idol depends on the customer he’s negotiating with. “People who buy big idols every year know the actual worth of an idol are more cost-friendly. But there are many who try purchasing bigger idols on a smaller budget. They are tough to negotiate with.”

All said and done, the artisan who has clients even from Bangalore, Vijaywada and Visakhapatnam, will have to wait one more week to count his final blessings.

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