Artisans making clay model Ganeshas barely survive

KEEPING IT ALIVE: Narayana Ponarkar working on a clay model of Ganesha in Hubli.

KEEPING IT ALIVE: Narayana Ponarkar working on a clay model of Ganesha in Hubli.  

In the tiny kitchen of the ancestral house of Narayana Balachandra Ponarkar at Hosur in Hubli, there is hardly any space left. While a stove is kept along with groceries, vegetables and utensils in a corner, the clay models of Ganesha occupy the rest of the space.

The clay models, some wet, are kept neatly on the shelves.

On the ground are a few more idols in different stages of completion.

Colour platter

Next to them is the colour platter with different shades of water colours kept in small cups and brushes of different sizes.

If one person sits working on the idols, another has to move gingerly in the kitchen.

Such scenes are common in the houses-cum-workshops of artisans who make clay models of Lord Ganesha in the twin cities.

Narayana has been making the clay models for three decades ever since he picked up the art from his father and brother Ganesh. Although the craft has not made him prosperous, it has earned him a living. The tiny kitchen and the small open area outside his house with tin sheet for a roof make for his workshop for idol making every year.

Artisans like Narayana eke out a living making idols and selling them during the Ganesh festival.

With the prices of raw material hitting the roof, the profit margin is wafer thin.

But in spite of that these poor artisans want to keep the craft alive.


When idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP) flood the market at the cost of damage to the environment, artisans like Narayana have stuck to clay. And his wife Priya supports him in the art.

“It's a family tradition. Although plaster of Paris Ganesha idols look attractive, neither is there ‘life' in them nor do they appeal to the devotees. Moreover, they harm the environment as they don't dissolve in water” said Narayana.


“If we get some land we can erect a shed for our work and do whatever work we can in a more organised way by joining hands with other poor artisans like us. That's our only plea to the Government,” said Narayana.

His brother Ganesh who has stacked up idols in the other part of the ancestral house, agrees with Narayana. “Given our limited resources, buying land is impossible. If only the Government helps we can do it in an organised way like Kolhapur where the Government has allotted land to such families,” he said.

  • They don't want to switch over to plaster of Paris
  • ‘It's a family tradition that we keep alive'

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