Traditional craftsmen from different States bring to Delhi a dash of rustic colour and artistry in their creations during the festive season

For generations, Mohammed Touheed’s family from Hapur has been making effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Meghnad for Dussehra celebrations in Delhi. Touheed brings truck loads of these effigies to sell at the Blind Relief Association grounds where a fair is organised around this time. Every year, he makes some change in design or colour, giving these effigies a new and more attractive look.

“Earlier, we used to make huge effigies of the trio because they were burnt only at big grounds. Now even residential colonies and housing societies have their own Dussehra celebrations and therefore, I make these effigies of different sizes, ranging from three to 12 ft depending upon the demand,” he says.

Art runs in Touheeds family. Apart from making the effigies, the family takes up assignments of making theme decoration for different occasions and festivals, religious or otherwise, whether it is in villages or five-star hotels in cities. “Art has no religion or boundary,” says Touheed, “for me, it is the creativity that matters.”

“Although our main earnings come from decorations, I continue with the effigy making for Dussehra, not just for making money but because this is what gives me ‘recognition’ and more than that I want to keep alive our traditional art,” he adds.

Vijay and Suman from Chittorgarh were ironsmiths as most families from this part of Rajasthan are. These people have been traditionally travelling from one place to another to sell their wares. But with most people preferring factory-made products these days, there are not many takers for the rustic iron products that they used to make. The couple decided to shift to the next best thing available — using colours.

So for past several years, this Rajput couple and other members of their family have been into the business of painted pottery, lamps, flower pots, diyas and idols of different gods and goddesses in a riot of colours and selling them on roadsides in Delhi.

“We get clay idols from West Bengal and paint them with colours from Rajasthan,” says Vijay.

It is during the festival season, starting from Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi till Diwali, that they do good business. For Suman and Vijay, who never tire of saying that they are from the land of Maharana Pratap, painting these pieces of art has now become a permanent business.

“We don’t have to roam from one place to another now and though we travel to and from Rajasthan a number of times in a year, we are more or less settled now,” says the couple.

Not very far from this couple’s stall were a few women selling goddess idols. One of them, Poonam, said, “We neither make these idols nor colour them. We get these readymade idols from villages near Meerut and sell them in Delhi.”

Poonam is not the only one. There are many like her who sell these colourful idols on the roadside during this time of the year. She says, “For us, it is a temporary business that lasts for a fortnight or so but we are able to earn some money.”

For Poonam it might be business but it is during this time that creative traditional art and craft of rural India, in the form of idols, lamps or diyas and other products, find their way to the streets and pavements of Delhi.