Tiruchi artisans have come up with novel themes in making the idols of the Lord Vinayaka this year

An idol of Lord Vinayaka instantly cheers up one’s mind and heart by virtue of its shape with distinct features of an elephant. Collection of Lord Vinayaka idols of different sizes and shapes delights some.

The Vinayaka Chathurthi this year will be of more interest to such persons. For, in addition to the usual forms, the artistes at Melakondaiyampatti in Tiruvanaikovil have been quite busy in introducing some new forms of this Lord. They are working on Sri Tiruvasi Ganapathy, Sri Anjaneyar Ganapathy, and Sri Garuda Ganapathy, Sri Krishnan Kondai Ganapathy, and Sri Ganapathy with Bootha Ganangal on either sides. A peacock is an additional attraction in a few idols.

As the name signifies, the idol of Lord Ganapathy is seen along with another deity or bird — Sri Hanuman and Sri Garuda or peacock. The style of Lord Ganapathy in Sri Krishnan Kondai Ganapathy resembles the pattern usually followed for the “kondai” of Lord Krishna.

“Till last year, we were working on Sri Simha Ganapathy, showing the god seated on a lion. Every time we introduce a new form, it goes down well with the devotees,” says T. Selvakumar, who works overtime along with a team of 14 persons for the current Chathurthii festival.

Each idol is about 12-foot tall and the price starts at Rs. 9,000. It is likely to shoot up to Rs. 14,000 or so depending on the demand towards the festival. He sells idols of less height — commencing from one foot to seven feet, to cater to the taste of different customers. He has so far received 120 orders for the big idols which is meant for community worship at public places.

Rising prices

The artistes point out that the rise in price of paint and raw material has dented the profit. Although they sell the idols, they are not the actual makers.

They are skilled in painting the idols which they receive in its white form made of papier mache and special flour. A family of artistes in Tiruvanaikovil gets the idols from Cuddalore, Villupuram, and Kancheepuram districts.

“Our trade commences at least three months earlier, when we invest Rs. 1.50 lakh towards advance and other expenditures for transporting the idols from distant places.”

A tin of paint costs Rs. 1,250 now as against Rs. 1,000 last year. “The wages for a painter is Rs. 500 now as against Rs. 300 last season,” says A. Kuzhandaivel, one of the artistes.

The family hires additional painters on contract basis depending on the orders.

Despite the rising cost of inputs and wages, the artistes have not passed on the burden to their patrons. “We will not be able attract customers, who have been patronising us for the past several years,” they say.

They point out that they curtail their profit margin this year.

“The soaring prices and other overheads are absorbed by us as most of us are relatives,” says Mr. Selvakumar. Of the 14 workers at his shed, seven are his relatives.

New traders

A group of new faces have taken up the trade this year. Incidentally, all of them are relatives of old-time traders. “I have invested Rs. 50,000 on my maiden venture. I am confident of getting orders in course of time,” says V. Paramasivam.

Credit

The artistes point out that they do not get loan from banks and rely on money lenders for their business every year.

More than the investment on the pieces, they have to take extra care for protecting the finished products by covering them with tarpaulin, as the festival coincides with the onset of monsoon every year.

They need full-fledged sheds to be built, “but lack of investment has been a hurdle,” says Mr. Kuzhandaivel.

A large number of devotees and office-bearers of youths clubs have been thronging Melkondaiyanpettai during the weekend, making a bargain for the idol. N. Thiyagarajan and K. Manikandan from the Vinayagar Youth Services Club in Thazhudhali village in Perambalur district say that the club has been organising community worship of Lord Ganapathy for 24 years. They say that the price of idols has gone up this year.

The festival signifies the gathering of club members, most of whom are in far off places like Chennai and Hyderabad. All the members contribute for the festival and a good part of this money goes for buying the idol.

R. Sathish, a lorry driver and a member of the club, transports the idol from Tiruvanaikovil to Thazhudhalai.