A group of artisans from West Bengal have been making Ganesh idols for the past 10 months at Indira Park for the SAVE group. Here’s a look at the art of making clay idols

Indira Park at Lower Tank Bund is covered in a blanket of greenery. The morning walkers have left and silence greets sporadic visitors. A kilometre inside the park, Vijay Ram, of Society for Awareness and Vision on Environment (SAVE), takes a detour and leads us into a muddy pathway, which opens up into a large clearing. Here, a huge workshop provides shelter for 40 artisans from West Bengal.

These artisans have been here for the last four years, working at an average of 10 months per year, to make 10,000 clay Ganesh idols of approximately 5 feet each. We say approximately because unlike Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols made from moulds, clay idols are made by hand and hence each piece is bound to be different from the other.

Samit Kumar, one of the artistes, says, “It takes us six to seven days to make one idol. We use locally available clay and fine sand brought in from the banks of Ganges.” The clay is first soaked in water pits for a day and is then stomped upon to arrive at the required malleable consistency. Meanwhile, a few artistes make the skeletal outline of the idols using jute and bamboo fibre. Then the prepared clay is applied to the jute-bamboo outline and the trunk is fixed. The upper part of the trunk of Ganesha is made using a clay cast.

“At this stage, cracks will be visible on the idols at the meeting place of limbs, head and shoulders and the pelvic region. A thin second coating of clay sets this right. For this, we use the clay from Ganges,” says Vijay Ram.

To make 10,000 idols, Vijay Ram’s team brought in a lorry load of sand from the river bed of Ganges. The finished idols are adorned with clay garlands and head gear made at the workshop. The dhotis are also made using jute bags.

The primary focus, this year, is on the five feet idols for the SAVE group. “We want to raise awareness among those who keep large idols in apartment complexes and colonies. We will also be distributing 2000 smaller idols,” says Vijay Ram. He politely turns down orders for larger idols and reasons, “We fixed the height as five feet to denote five elements. A lot more time and labour would be involved in making idols of height 10 feet and more. In that time, these artisans can easily make a few smaller idols. Besides, it is not necessary to worship with large idols.”

In recent years, different groups such as SAVE, Tree Guard Foundation, Hyderabad Goes Green and AP Pollution Control Board have stepped up the campaign for eco-friendly idols. Vijay Ram feels the percentage of people using clay idols is still negligible. “People talk about Hussain Sagar getting polluted. My concern is about wells and drinking water sources in the districts. Sadly, even in villages people are using PoP idols,” he laments.

The SAVE team also plans to conduct workshops at district levels with the help of the artisans from West Bengal.

Go eco-friendly, get clay idols

For idols and workshops on making clay idols, contact SAVE group at Emerald Mithai Shop, Lower Tank Bund: 040-27654336

Tree Guard Foundation also gives away idols that are 1ft, 3ft and 5ft tall at its office near Olive Mithai Shop, Sixth Phase, Kukatpally Housing Board. Contact: 90007 73399. This year, the foundation plans to distribute around 50,000 clay idols.

Place online orders at www.hyderabadgoesgreen.com, email info @hyderabadgoesgreen.com or call 7416790905.