Ganesh idols ranging from miniatures to imposing 20-ft ones, some depicting social issues, line R.V. Road

A stroll down R.V. Road would remind anyone that the Ganesh festival is around the corner.

The street is lined with colourful idols of lord Ganesh in varying hues and shapes.

One company has almost entirely been running the show from this street — Sri Vinayaka & Co. Run by M. Srinivas and M. Sridhar, the company has been making and selling idols for 67 years now.

Says Sridhar: “We mainly make Ganesh and Gowri idols, as well as those of other deities such as Maramma, Eeshwara, Linga and Parvathi.”

He elaborates: “The materials we use are mud, glass and coconut coir. Nowadays people have become very demanding with respect to design. We also use plaster of Paris for those idols that need to stay undamaged for a long time. The colours we use are all biodegradable vegetable paint.”

According to him, clay idols are costlier and require more time to make. But, they are the ones best suited for dissolving in water.

Social commentary

The Ganesh idols come in different sizes, ranging from 4 inch to an imposing 22 feet.

Some are theme based. For instance, one is depicted with books indicating knowledge; another brings to light drought by showing the usually fat-bellied god with a shrunken stomach; another quirky one incorporates football and the Commonwealth Games.

There are also variations in style among Ganeshas from different parts of the country, and from within the State itself.

Family business

“I have no particular competition in this business, the presence of my brother is enough,” Sridhar quips jokingly. “The idea first occurred to my father. He thought a business with idols of various deities would be a good idea. He started on a small scale with around 200 to 250 statues, as he wasn’t sure of the demand.”

The family now owns factories in Begur and Bidadi. Wholesalers come from Chickballapur and Mandya to buy around 35,000 idols from them during peak season.

The price of the idol depends on the size, design and material. Just the mud used to make a 1-ft-tall Ganesh may cost around Rs. 125. Idols made out of other materials cost around Rs. 350 to Rs. 400.

“Our staff of around 30 have all learnt their skills from their fathers and grandfathers. It’s a traditional occupation for them too,” Sridhar says. “If newcomers join, they first start off as helpers and then learn gradually on the job.”

Laborious process

The manufacturing process involves creating a mould using paper and wood. Then, a mix of natural gum, chalk powder and plaster of Paris is poured into it. The finished idols are dried in the open and then coated with paint to get a glossy finish.

“The final touches and the painting is done by experienced hands. For example, if it is a Bengali style Durga statue, we get workers from Bengal itself to get the same uncompromised facial features,” Sridhar explains.

The busiest time of the year for them — August and September — is also the time when vagaries in weather make their job difficult. “Sometimes it rains heavily and our idols get damaged or the mud becomes soggy and doesn’t dry easily. Sometimes the idols crack under the heat of the sun. They should be dried at a slow pace,” he says.

As he speaks, he takes out carefully carved tiny statues of Gowri and Ganesh. “These are the smallest statues, about one inch,” he says. The miniature work goes back carefully in his little paper cover back into his pocket.

One may wonder how magnificent the idol that is worshipped in Sridhar’s house might be, but the man who sells idols to the entire city doesn’t celebrate the festival.

Keywords: Ganesh idols

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