Struggles of the idol makers

Ready for puja: Colourful Ganesha idols on display at Kosapet.

Ready for puja: Colourful Ganesha idols on display at Kosapet.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Kosapet slowly losing ground as the hub of clay idols

Heads are bent low, there is constant kneading of clay and fingers keep working on small figurines. Braving the hot sun or a sudden downpour these simple people at Kosapet can hardly spare a second for small talk. This is their season. This is the time when they can earn some money. It is time for their reward. Vinayaka Chathurthi helps them to make their ends meet and tide over difficulties.

Colourfully painted Ganesha idols of varying sizes (three to 13 feet) lined along the dusty narrow streets is the result of their hard work.

Figurines big and small are found everywhere in the locality. Some covered (with plastic), some still to be made and hundreds neatly stacked on the ‘thinnais' of the clay-tiled traditional houses.

These are made by more than 450 families engaged in this trade of producing Ganesha idols for the festival on a mass scale or for individual worship. The people at Kosapet have eked out a living here for more than 50 years. “The place was earlier called Koyavanpettai (meaning clay artisan) and with passage of time it became Kosapet,” said N. Jothilingam, a long-time resident. M. Poomani, another person engaged in the trade, said that the idols are in great demand on the eve of the Vinayaka Chaturthi festival. People from far flung areas too come here to buy our figurines. The dolls cost anywhere between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 25,000.

S. Nagarajan, a traditional doll-maker of Kosapet, said the Ganesha idols, which are mostly in sitting postures, are sourced from Villupuram and Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. He said that they have discontinued making these big idols as there is a huge gap between the economics of production and sale price. He said: “It is easier to source these idols from other places due to the seasonal kind of business.”

R. Karunakaran, a wholesale dealer and a clay artisan himself, rued that poor Government support, space constraint, several restrictions in the name of environmental pollution and the non-availability of clay forced several artisans to migrate to other parts of the State. Pointing out that it has been a long time since the artisans in the area stopped creating massive idols, he says: “At present the big Ganesha figures are being brought from Andhra Pradesh.”

Another popular ground

With Kosapet slowly losing the ground as the capital of manufacturing clay idols, other places such as Koyambedu are becoming popular for purchasing Ganesha figurines.

Traders in Koyambedu Wholesale Market say that they get clay dolls of Ganesha from villages of Thiruvallur district and the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Sold at a starting price of Rs. 20 per piece, people prefer to purchase clay idols from the local markets of the area concerned.

S. Dharman, a part-time manufacturer and seller from Kavangarai, says that the cost of clay has been rising year after year and the failure of the Monsoon has forced him to consider continuing this business.

Ashok Sharma from Thirumullaivoyal creates idols of Lord Ganesha made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) coated with white ash. He says that the raw materials are being procured from Andhra Pradesh and that the idols are painted with water colours, which are soluble. With scarcity of skilled labourers and raw materials they have to increase the price of idols by at least by 15 per cent. A five-feet tall idol is sold for Rs. 5,500, whereas the price goes up depending on the size and workmanship. The price tag goes up to Rs. 20,000.

Though there is mass production of the clay idols in the city, the ancient art form of doll making is slowly dying because the younger generation is not interested in taking up this art form. Space constraints and sourcing of Ganesha idols at a cheaper price from other places are the other issues.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:17:17 AM |

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