When the hum returns to Kumartuli in north Kolkata, it augurs well for several others who are indirectly involved with the making of a Durga idol.
Over the past few weeks when orders started trickling in for the clay artisans, thousands associated with a variety of work related to idol making — from the dressmakers to those who prepare the tufts of hairs for the goddess and her children — have returned to work keeping aside some of the gloom.
The Telegraph spoke to several traders in these allied businesses to learn about how they were gearing up to meet the demands of the artisans with less than three weeks to the Pujas.
One of them who works on ornaments said from two idols in July he now had orders for over a dozen now. The earnings would at least see him through the season.
Gopal Pal has been dealing with synthetic saris that artisans use to drape the gods and goddesses for decades. He sources most of the material from Surat in Gujarat and some, from mills in Mumbai.
Last year, Gopal had had merely 30 per cent of his usual business. It looked the same way for him till July. Over the past few weeks the demand has seen a steady uptick after months of agonising wait.
“Had it not been for these last minute orders we would have had to wrap up our business,” Gopal said. “At least now we have some orders because the artisans have received their advances.”
Several others said while earlier a Durga idol would require around eight metres of sari material the artisans were now looking for four metres. The size of most idols has shrunk and so has their volume of business.
Shankar Santra hails from Parbatipur in Howrah’s Bargachhia where several hundred people are engaged in making tufts of hair for the gods and goddesses from strands of jute.
Santra used to work with nearly 4,000kg of jute when orders would come from near and far. Since last year he has scaled it down to about 400kg of jute. “Last year I received orders totalling Rs 15,000. With orders now coming in I will possibly end up doing business of around Rs 25,000,” he said. “There was a time when I had a business of Rs 10-12 lakh.”
Like Santra, many others engaged in this trade over generations said they were losing out on the orders from smaller towns because Puja organisers couldn’t take trains to reach Parbatipur.
Besides the ones in gold and silver, the gods and goddesses come decked in ornaments of different kinds, some made of beads or puthi, zari and avra. The specialists know which decoration would go with what type of an idol.
“This is intricate work and needs patience. Till July I had orders for two idols,” said Kamal Paul, one ornaments supplier. “I didn’t know if this would be my last season with Durga idols. Thankfully, the orders have started coming. I have over a dozen now.”