Harbans Lal, who is in his late fifties, is fully immersed in making idols of Ravana at Lohgarh Chowk since last month. Such is his dedication towards his work, that with Dussehra around the corner, he has fixed a time table for meals, as he does not want to waste even a second.
"Lohgarh Chowk has been famous for idol-making since ages. We get orders not only from the neighbouring towns and villages, but from all over the state, because artists here have proven their perfection," says Parveen Kumar Bulli, president of Lohgarh Dussehra Committee.
"All artists here take a great interest in their work, but the rising inflation is pinching them," he adds.
He also shares that orders start rolling in months before the festival, and as the date comes closer, many more artists can be seen working here. Man Singh Gate is another locality where idol-makers can be seen working. These artists work on the roadside, so people often stop to see idols taking shape. They feel especially happy when their work is captured in photographs.
Harbans Lal says that making idols is an art which involves lot of hard work, patience and skills. Every year, he and his family wait for the festival with much enthusiasm, both because they have been associated with the business for so long, and the festival provides them an opportunity to earn better than the rest of the year.
He charges `80,000 for one idol, which is about 125 ft high, and is supported by his family, especially his nephews, who sometimes come from far-off places to help him and learn the craft.
"Any craft can be learnt only with interest and passion," he adds.
"I draw inspiration from my maternal grandfather, who was also in the same business. Those days, my brothers and I would visit him to help him with his work. I took a keen interest in the methods he used, the skills he displayed, and got trained." Today, his four sons and nephew are learning from him.
He says that it is necessary to plan well and think out of the box. "If I give you the same design every year, I will be soon out of business. I have to be very innovative," he adds.
Asked about his most memorable moments, he says, "When I see my idols in the Dussehra ground, I feel more than elated. I will never forget when in 1996, my hard work proved futile as my idol fell before it was even lit. I cried a lot," he shares.
How he does it
Bamboo sticks of different sizes
Frames are made for various parts and covered with paper. The parts are taken on trolleys to the grounds, where they are loaded with fire crackers and are carefully joined. Then the idol is positioned with the help of a crane.