Tuesday, June 15

Eco-friendly Ganesha: Artisans from Kolkata create clay idols this festival season

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A building near the vegetable market in Nallakunta is soaking in the spirit of worship and celebration. An artisan gives finishing touches to an idol that’s being made totally with clay. Inside the big space, pot-bellied clay Ganeshas of different sizes — some completed and a few near completion greet the visitors. For more than three months now, this place has been home for nearly 30 artisans who’ve come from Kolkata. Kailash Kumar Mondal, an artist and owner of this eco-friendly workshop is seen giving instructions to his team on the subtle decorations and ornaments.

Belonging to a family of farmers, Mondal came to Hyderabad 14 years ago. Having grown up in Kolkata and been part of the colourful Durga pooja celebrations, he connected to the 11-day grand celebrations for Vinayaka Chavithi here. With an interest in art and design, he saw an opportunity in the growing demand for Ganesha idols and set up a small unit of making Ganeshas at Jambagh near Koti. “We would make 60 pieces of Ganesha of two feet; Gradually Ganesha’s height went up to 12 feet,” he recalls, adding he also created an eco-friendly Ganesha for TV 9 a few years ago.

Mondal’s team of artisans Bhajan, Bishwanath, Nemai Saha, Gautam, Sukumar, Sunil come from the Pal community, known for their idol-making skills in Bengal. Most artistes are from Krishnanagar and also Kumortuli, the traditional potters’ quarter in north Kolkata.

The first step begins by sourcing two varieties of material — clay and mud —from Kolkata, during May. Around 1400 bags (of 25-30 kg each) are stored in the godown. “We consider the Kolkata Ganga mitti as pure and virtuous so we use only that to create the idols. It also gives a smooth finish unlike the rough mud which could give cracks on the structure,” he informs. The artistes make a framework and create a mould of dry grass around the plank; A figurine is made of chaff, straw and clay and is kept in the sun to dry. “We have to put multiple layers of the clay water on the figurine so that the finish is smooth,” he says adding a cotton cloth is covered so that it fixes well. The artistes paint eyes and ornaments and use natural colours to put a namam and kumkum on the forehead. “Some people feel the idols look dull and ask us to add some colour. We try to reason with them but when they don’t agree, we create a few idols with water paints.” The whole process takes around three months time. While this unit has around 200 Ganesha idols (between 2ft and 9 ft), another unit of his (near Koranti hostpital) has only large idols (between 12 and 20 ft). While a small idol costs around ₹80, it goes up to ₹ 1,50,000. The artistes start working from 8 am and are on the job till midnight with a break during lunch. “Some of the customers feel eco-freindly Ganeshas will break easily. I try to convince them that these idols will not break even for 20 years.”

Some of the large Ganesha idols have different concepts — A majestic Ganesha riding two tigers, sitting on a throne like an emperor and a snake entwined around his arm. The artistes conceptualise these designs and modify according to Mondal’s feedback. “People here like the idol to be grand and traditional. In Kolkata, Durga idols also highlight social issues like education for girls or how a farmer toils. ” His buyers are mostly from apartments who’d like to keep a green Ganesha in their premises. “But they bargain a lot and do not realise the hard work which has gone into creating it,” he smiles.

Once the Ganesha idols are sold, the team doesn’t rest as they start work on creating the Durga idol for Dasara celebrations. The team makes around only 50 Durga idols and once it is sold, leave for Kolkata.

 

Source: The Hindu

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