The Raavanwallahs of Titarpur: The demand, the craft and the legend behind it
The craftsmen of Titarpur village are busy creating Ravana effigies for Dussehra, and we spoke to them about all that there is to the craft.delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2017 18:06 IST
Dussehra still might be a fortnight away (30 September 2017) , but the preparations for it are in full swing at Titarpur. Situated between Subhash Nagar and Tagore Garden, this urban village (also the largest effigy market in Asia) can be called the Ravan supermarket. One can spot the various body parts of Ravana and his brothers, shaped in bamboo and placed alongside the road here, and according to these Ravanwallahs, this is where he is born every year. We decided to talk to the effigy-makers about their craft, the demand and sale and more, and this is what we found.
DEMAND IN THE RAVANA MARKET
Talk about the growing demand of these effigies and the latest trends, and Raju, a member of Shankar’s team, says, “The effigies range from 2ft to 50ft and can stretch to about Rs 35,000 in price depending on customisations and demand. We have people coming in with specifications that they want for their Ravana, and we do it all. We’ve had effigies shipped to various countries from here, too.” But, Raju takes immediately makes it clear that customisation is limited to colour and design elements and not the complete feel of the effigy. “People ask us to dress him up in fancy clothing or like their favourite character. One madam asked for a Baahubali style figure too. But, we do not do that! It is an insult to our annadaata (which means provider, and refers to Ravana), and is also not an accurate representation of him,” he says.
UP IN FLAMES
For city dwellers, seeing the effigies of Ravana, Meghnaad and Kumbhkarna burn, is probably the most satisfying part of Dussehra celebrations. However, for the effigy makers in the urban village of Titarpur, it’s their craft literally going up in flames.
“It isn’t a sight I really enjoy. Ravana isn’t a demon for us, he is our source of livelihood and our craft. The only way we make ourselves feel better, seeing our craft burn, is by telling ourselves that that’s what makes everyone happy,” says Shankar, a third generation effigy maker who sits in a heap of curved bamboo parts of the effigy alongside the main road of Titarpur.
WATER IS THE REAL ENEMY
Most people would imagine that it is the flaming arrow that these effigies would fear the most, but the Ravanwallahs feel that this year, it’s been the water. “The weather has been unpredictable, and rain has been the real enemy for our work. Nothing changes the shape since bamboo is strong, but the rain damages the paper we use to block shapes and decorate. But then, we just see it as a do-over that allows us to make the effigies even more beautiful,” says Rahul, an effigy maker.
THE LEGEND OF RAVAN BABA
57-year-old Kamlesh, who, at one time, was known for his speed with bamboo work, now supervises a team of migrant youths, who aspire to be like him. “These people think of me as a legend in the profession, but I’ve always told them that it is Ravan Baba whose blessings gave me my skill,” says Kamlesh. “About 55 years ago, he used to sell funeral items, and started the tradition of making these effigies. He used to sit in the village, tear the bamboo apart and bend it into these shapes, kids sat around to watch him. I never got to learn from him, since I came here from UP, but my friend who learned from the master himself, taught me the craft. I feel like that was the blessing that eventually gave me my skill.”