Durga Puja: Despite more orders, price hike worries idol makers in Lucknow
Price hike of material and soil used in the idol making has restricted them from taking many orders.
The idol makers of Rabindra Palli and Talkatora area are happy this year as orders for Durga idols have comparatively increased from what it was for the last two years due to Covid restrictions, but the price hike of material and soil used in the idol making has restricted them from taking many orders and even put these few popular artists of the city in a quandary over the uncertain future of their art.
Sujeet Kumar Pal, an idol maker from the Rabindra Palli whose last three generations have been in the same business, predicts a bleak future for the idol-making profession due to the constant price rise. According to Pal, the price of soil has increased by 50% in the last few years due to so many restrictions put up by the government in soil procurement. “There has been an approx. 50% jump in the soil price,” he said while informing that he imports the soil from Rae Bareli. “Only dry pond soil is used in the idol-making process because of its good texture and adhesiveness, making it ideal for idol making. River soils are not used because they contain a lot of sand,” he added.
Pal said that this year he had received an order of a total of 20-22 idols which was double in number than the previous two years of Covid, but very less than what he used to get a few years back. “Earlier I used to make approx 40-45 idols every year,” he said. Committees neither decrease the size of the idol not they were ready to pay higher amount in return, he added.
“Though I’m making more Idols than the previous two years, the numbers have gone down considerably over the years,” said Sambhu Pal, an idol maker from Durgapur, West Bengal who is making idols in Lucknow for the past 10 years now.
Pal is making idols for some of the major puja committees in Lucknow this year including areas such as Indira Nagar, Model house, Bengali Club, Char Bagh, and Lal Bagh.
Niloy Kumar Mitra, another idol maker in the city said that the overall price has seen a spike. We import soils from villages in Barabanki and Bijnor. “Earlier if a cart of soil cost us ₹700, it costs us ₹1100 now,” he added.
Apart from the soil, the prices for the accessories used in Idol making including bamboo, clothes, paints, and other materials have also increased significantly. The cost of transportation has also increased due to hike in petrol and diesel price. “We import all materials from Kolkata except Bamboo and soil, thus shelling out more money on transportation,” he said.
Mitra has received a total of 40-45 orders this year, including some of the city’s most popular puja pandals such as Rabindra Palli, HAL, BhootNath, LDA colony, Ashiana, Geetanjali, and some outstations such as Hardoi, Shahjahanpur, and others.
Niloy said until a few years back, there used to be 12-15 artists from Kolkata in his team, but now only 6-7 people are called. “I have confidence that I can take 70-80 orders but due to less demand due to high prices, I only take a few orders now.”