The lives of sculptors in Dhoolpet revolves around idol making. We meet a few artisans, ahead of the puja season

An unfinished and partly damaged Plaster of Paris idol of Ganesha sits precariously balanced on a stone on the main road of Dhoolpet. Barely a fortnight after visarjan, this eight-foot tall idol is the only reminder of Ganesh Chaturthi. The artisans at Dhoolpet are now gearing up for Dasara, giving the finishing touches to Durga idols.

As we cross Boiguda khaman, rows of shops selling puja items and colourful kites greet us. The small hardware shops and kirana stores are punctuated with stores that display colourful Durga idols of two to three feet height each. Most of them are coloured in blinding fluorescent shades.

In one of the gullies, under the shelter of a tarpaulin sheet, Vijayender Singh and Santosh Singh are labouring away. Their workshop has idols of eight to 12 feet. “In a couple of days, we will have to finish the painting and keep the idols ready,” says Vijayender Singh. Two finished idols across the road give an idea of the end product. “We’ve been doing this for the last three generations,” says Santosh Singh. In these parts of the city, PoP idols dominate and the artists smile at the mention of eco-friendly idols. “Most pandal organisers want PoP idols and these are easier for us to make,” says Vijayender.

The number of Durga puja pandals is far lesser when compared to Ganesh pandals but there is a perceivable increase in the number of idols with each passing year. The idols made in Dhoolpet are made on orders by pandal organisers in Secunderabad, Banjara Hills and Old City. Though a significant number of idol makers have set up business in Kukatpally, Dhoolpet remains the popular destination for idols. The locality once notorious for liquor brewing wears a new sheen thanks to these workshops. As one idol maker points out, “Liquor brewing still happens in some areas, though not as prominently as before.”

Most artisans making these idols are from Hyderabad, who’ve learnt the art from the older generation. “This is the only art we know. All round the year, we make Ganesh and Durga idols. A few who have large workshops and more orders hire artistes from Rajasthan and West Bengal,” says Satish Kumar, an idol maker at a workshop near the Hanuman temple in Dhoolpet. The idols range from a few hundreds to a few thousands of rupees. “Pandal organisers bargain a lot,” is the common refrain.

Time-consuming task

Artisans work 10 to 12 hours a day and finish an eight-feet PoP idol in about a week’s time. “Depending on the order, we work with PoP, fibre or even stone. Decorating the idol with colourful clothes and paper jewellery takes time,” says Santosh.

Nestled in the gullies adjacent to Hanuman temple are large workshops. In these narrow alleys devoid of traffic, only the occasional tinkering on the idols breaks the silence. These roadside work areas open into larger, sheltered storehouses that stock a number of idols. The largest such showroom in the area belongs to Sundar Kalakaar. “I have eight workshops and a showroom to stock the finished idols,” says the veteran artist who is much respected in the locality.

His showroom attracts visitors from distant parts of the city. He receives orders from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well. “Forget the orders and the money I get as a result of this. The satisfaction I get when I see people mesmerised at the idols is incomparable,” says a beaming Sundar Kalakaar.