Idol makers of Kosapet face the COVID-19 heat

An artisan giving final touches to the idols at Kosapet on Thursday. Photo: R. Ragu

An artisan giving final touches to the idols at Kosapet on Thursday. Photo: R. Ragu  

Idol makers at Kosapet, a hub for potters and artisans, in the suburb of Chennai, have indicated that their business will be down by over 40% during the upcoming Krishna Jayanthi and Ganesh Chaturthi due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families here who have been into this business for several decades said that orders have been few and far between, and they have never witnessed a gloomy business environment like this before.

On Thursday, S. Manikandan, an artisan here was busy polishing the Ganesha idols and was placing them under the sunlight for drying. Manikandan has been in this business for 15 years. He said that he and many other artisans working from their small 200 sq,ft homes here are waiting for clarity from the government on how the festival would be conducted this year in Tamil Nadu. “I have been getting orders for Krishna Jayanthi as people celebrate it in their homes. Whereas Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated outside in a grand way,” he added. Manikandan who made over 500 idols last year is making only 100 this year which are one-foot tall.

A few streets away, S. Nagarajan was elaborating on the price of idols to one of his clients while his family members (all women) were painting the Ganesha idols. “Usually around this time people from various associations and localities come to give orders ahead of the festival day but this time the numbers have dropped,” he said. Last year, he managed to sell over 8,000 idols and this year he has got a confirmed order for 2,000 idols only.

Both Nagarajan and Manikandan also pointed out that raw material costs have escalated due to the lockdown. “A tricycle-full of clay which was ₹500 earlier is now priced at₹1,000,” said Manikandan. Nagarajan has purchased clay for ₹3,500. “I purchased the same amount of clay for ₹2,500 last year. Cost of transportation, price of paint and other raw materials have also increased due to the lockdown,” he added.

A. Mohan, 59, another clay artisan here, was a little optimistic. “I have been honouring all orders. I have even agreed to give consignments on credit to those who have traded with me for long,” he said. “Idols will not be priced higher this year, people will not buy,” he added while giving final touches to the 3-foot blue coloured Krishna idol.

According to idol makers and artisans here, a decade ago over 400 families were into this business but now the numbers have shrunk to less than 100. Of this, only a few dozen families make idols throughout the year. The others do it only for their regular clients. “The current generation doesn’t want to do this. They have all moved to white collared jobs,” said an artisan here who has been into this business for four decades. “I’m busy with orders for next week. So don’t disturb me now and don’t mention my name,” he added.

In a narrow street, S. Selvi Sathyanarayan and Sumathi were wrapping the finished idols in a paper with some hay. “Businesses have taken a huge toll due to COVID-19 and the lockdown. Many artisans here will be giving away idols for the same price that they had fixed last year,” Selvi said.

The artisans here have requested the government to make an early announcement pertaining to celebration of Krishna Jayanthi and Ganesh Chaturthi. They pointed out that only when there is clarity people would step out of homes to purchase idols. Artisans here said that if they miss the festive season they would have to struggle to make ends meet as many of them are dependent only on this for their livelihood.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 4:51:33 AM |

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