Large hearted Ganpati gets smaller as festivities are toned down due to Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit idol-makers hard as demand dips and festivities go low key with large gatherings prohibitedUpdated: Aug 17, 2020, 23:59 IST
City-based fourth generation sculptor Khokhan Adhikari, 50, looks forward eagerly to Ganesh Chaturthi, when he and 15 small-time sculptors from his native West Bengal make idols to earn a decent amount that helps them get by every year. Khokhan’s paternal uncle Govardhan, 65, runs a similar operation and employs 12 artists each year.
The Covid-19 outbreak, however, has changed the way religious festivals are celebrated, hitting people like Adhikari hard as costs of religious idols have crashed because of lack of demand even as Ganesh Chaturthi is just round the corner on August 22.
Last year, Adhikari, who has been running his idol making unit at the Kalibari temple premises in Ram Darbar for the last three decades, got an order of over 400 medium and small size idols of Ganesh and 50 big idols, their height ranging from 6 to 12 feet.
While the price of a large sized idol is Rs 10,000, the smaller ones are in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 2,500, but this year larger Ganeshas have all but disappeared and demand for smaller sized idols cut down by half, curtailing their overall turnover to one-fourth.
The number of hired hands has come down to just four from 15.
The eldest of the Adhikaris, Govardhan, whose idol-making unit is in Shiv Mandir, Baikund Dham in Ram Darbar, too had a flourishing business last year, but this time orders are limited.
Govardhan’s son Subhash, 40, and three of their relatives have made the idols, without any of their regular outstation artists for the first time in 35 years.
“Because of pandemic, people are avoiding gatherings even for pooja, so no one has ordered the big idols and ask for smaller ones that can easily be immersed at home. Earlier, apart from Ganesh Chaturthi, we used to get some work preparing tableaux for temples during Janmashtami and then Durga Pooja. But this time there was no work during Janmashtami and Durga Pooja too is going to be the same,” says Anubhav Adhikari, 19, a second year BA student, and who helps his father in the business. “Every year we use to get 14 to 15 sculptors to meet the demand, but this time because of the pandemic we have only four artistes from Bengal,” he adds.
“Demand has been increasing every year, but this year things have changed,” says sculptor Nepal Noskar, 70, who has been coming to Chandigarh from West Bengal for the last 34 years without a break. Artists who left Bengal have got work but those who stayed back are struggling as there is no work over there with Durga pooja plans cancelled, he adds.
This year, the cost of idols has also gone up by 20-25%, with Adhikari (Khokhan), who is flying in his artists this time and coping with limited demand, is trying to cover costs.
“The only thing that I will remember of the Covid times is that for the first time in my life I got a chance to travel by air,” says Parikhit Sardar, 55, who also has been visiting Chandigarh over the years.
“Hope Lord Ganesh will see to it that the situation improves by next year or we’ll have to look for other work,” he adds.