Idols of Lord Ganesha in vibrant colours and various sizes greet passers-by along 120 Feet Road connecting Mattuthavani and Surveyor Colony in the city.
D. Nanakram, one of the idol-makers in the area, says he is pinning hopes on good sales for Ganesh Chaturthi this year. “Our sales hit rock-bottom during the past two years due to the spread of COVID-19.”
He recalls that not a single idol sold in 2020, probably for the first time in 33 years in the business, and wishes it to be the last as well.
As he watches his daughter give the first coat of paint to an idol and his grandson ready the spray gun to splash a myriad of colours at all the right places, he hopes that business will pick up this year,
Majestic idols of Lord Ganesha stand in rows, some up to 10 feet tall, each more colourful than the other, inside their thatched make-shift shed awaiting customers. There are a few idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Murugan.
N. Ganesh, another idol-maker, waves his paint-stained hands and says the business has become a costly affair. “With the sales dull, we are forced to borrow money to manage day-to-day affairs and the debts are only mounting. Now, the prices of raw materials like gypsum powder, watercolour and spray gun are sold at triple the rates when compared to 2019. How are we to sustain,” he laments.
The traders blame it on the hike in petrol prices and GST., says Mr. Ganesh.
“Most members of the 10 families in the area, who work for about six months here and go back to their native places in Rajasthan for the rest of the year, depend on the sales during Ganesh Chaturthi,” says S. Teja, an idol-maker of 20 years as she paints a one-foot idol with varnish.
“We are readying the idols for dispatch to places such as Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram, Paramakudi, Theni, Cumbum, Usilampatti, Palani and even Tirupati,” he says.
The artisans, who are not making any new ones this year as the stocks from 2020 have had no takers, have saved the best ones for sales this year.
“We lost around 300 finished idols of sizes from 3 feet to 10 feet that could not sustain under the weather conditions and time. The paint melts away even if a single drop of water touches the surface. They are not made to sustain for years like this,” adds N. Meena, wife of Mr. Nanakram.
The artisans repainting the idols for the third time with the hope to bring back colour into their lives through brisk sales. Mr Nanakram believes it is still a long journey to be debt-free and his fellow artisans nod in agreement.