COVID-19 dampens festive spirit among idol makers ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi


New Delhi : Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Uttam Kumar, a Delhi-based idol maker is running his artistic hands while giving final touches to a three-feet tall idol of Lord Ganesh.

Ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi (August 22), idol makers across the city have been in full zeal preparing Ganesh idols, in expectations of meeting demand.

Albeit artists have opened their stalls, shops and are continuously engaged in the making of idols, the business of these idol makers has been strongly hampered due to the uncertainties around coronavirus.

Unlike last year, the streets of A K Roy Marg, Matka Market, ahead of the festival, are noticeably empty with only a few families coming in and placing their orders.

“Compared to last year, the sales have gone completely down. Making of idols is our family business, and we have been doing it for years. This might be the first time that we are facing such dip in orders from customers,” said Uttam Kumar to ANI, an idol maker who has his stall in Matka Market, near Sarojini Nagar.

Sitting next to Kumar is his long-time friend Sonu, who too, has taken up the family business of idol making. During an interaction with ANI, the two took a trip down the memory lane, reminiscing about the rush, and swift orders of Ganesh idols that used to take place a week before Ganesh Chaturthi.

Talking about the preparation, the 30-year-old artist noted that the planning and supplies of materials began three-four months back. Most of the items and many Ganesh idols in their stalls are from Kolkata.

“We started the preparation in April-June, but even the raw material and supplies to reach here in Delhi from Kolkata had issues due to the restrictions of movement owing to COVID-19,” he added.

Another lady, while carefully taking her 4-feet-tall Ganesh idol made of mud, back to her stall amid the drizzling rain talked to ANI about how the majority of stalls in Matka Market have concentrated on avoiding idols made of PoP (Plaster of Paris).

The artist who did not wish to reveal her name said, after the decision to call off the use of PoP by the authorities, many among them have made a conscious effort to make idols of mud or clay or the ones that are not harmful to nature.

However, she mentioned that only families, who are ready to take home Ganesh “murti” are coming to place orders, but not many pandal organisers have approached them so far to buy or place orders for Ganesh idols for the festival.
“There are no bulk-orders, unlike last year, and family is also conscious of purchasing idols that are of short-height.”

Meanwhile, Ajay Shastri and Neelima Bhagwat, the husband-wife duo who runs eco-friendly Ganesh idols shop at Jankakpuri, Desu colony, are also facing slight problems in their sales for this year.

The couple, who have been running the shop for the last eight years have since then focused on making Ganesh idols, purely out of clay, and other eco-friendly substances that are in no way harmful to the environment.

The 12-15 labourers, who are working for them from Mumbai are also facing consequences due to the hit of COVID-19. Not only because of the spread of the virus but also the heavy rain that the coastal state had to bear recently, brought gloom among the idol makers.

“They are facing financial problems, and the labour cost has also increased,” said Shastri to ANI.

Talking about his business, here in Delhi, the owner said: “The main difference this year is that customers who used to get 18-24 feet Ganesh idols every year, have demanded 6-8 feet idols this year”

Having a wide range in the size of idols from 6-feet to maximum 24-feet, the couple’s business, according to them is going “fine”, however they are focusing on bringing more small-sized idols to meet the growing demand.

The 10-day festivities of Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha, will begin on August 22. The festivities will end with the final immersion of the Ganesha idols, called the Visarjan.

The festival is celebrated with much grandeur in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat among other states. (ANI)