They eke out a living by making Ganesha idols

They eke out a living by making Ganesha idols

They eke out a living by making Ganesha idols

From yesteryear star Mithun Chakraborty to present day hero Hritik Roshan, all have glorified Ganesha and made him the favourite god of Bollywood.

The same god has helped thousands of families in Gujarat to eke out a living. Popularly called Ganapati Baba, the elephant-headed god was worshipped in public by setting up pandals mainly in Maharashtra and southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Now, more and more people are holding public functions of Ganapati across the country.

As the festivities are growing by the year, the demand for the idols are also increasing. This has left thousands of families in Ahmedabad smiling.Many families living in Gulbai Tekra area of Ahmedabad have been in the business of idol-making for generations. For them, the growing demand for idol means more business.

They have also realised that the size of the idols has been increasing every year and that means more efforts are required and also they would reap in more money. Many of the families have made a name for themselves and they are sure that their customers will return to them year after year from different parts of the country.

Many take to the business of idol making every year with the hope that they will carve a name for themselves and can compete with their neighbours, who already have made a name. They alway hope that they will be able to sell the idols made by them. Though thousands of families living in the area are only into the business of idol making, they have to ensure that they do not indulge in cut-throat competition, thereby reducing their profit margins for their efforts.

Their strict business-like attitude and camaraderie have helped new comers to prosper in the business. The bonding among the families help new comers to take to business with confidence. They will ensure that beginners are not forced to undersell their products. They have an unwritten understanding that the newcomers are left high and dry.

Engage 45-year-old Ishwar Marwari in a conversation. He does not remember when his parents migrated from Raja­sthan and took up the business of idol-making. “I still remember as a child, I would be given the equipment to paint the toes and hands of Lord Ganesha. At that time, that was some four decades ago, idols were very small in size and very few would order big-sized idols,’’ said Marwari.

Now, the trend and demand are more for large idols, buyers are ready to pay the amount and earnings too have gone up. “The idols are transported to various parts of the country. As the demand has been growing more have orders and our profits are also steadily growing,’’ said Marwari.

Another idol maker Ashok Marwari said that they get orders for the idols from Belgaum and Hubli in northern Karnataka. “There is a myth that most of the idols are made in Maharashtra and transported from there. Actually, idols for Auran­gabad and Nashik are transported from Ahmedabad,” claimed Marwari.

They use plaster of paris, mud and coconut husk brought from Kerala to make idols. Their idols are not heavy as they have to be transported for long distances. Also, they are not into eco-friendly Ganeshas as they want the idol to be attractive and appealing. They believe the bright colours attract the customers.

He said that his grandfather had started idol making business and now even his ten-year-old son is assisting him to give the perfect touch to idols. He said that they are turnover by selling Ganesha idols has been steadily going up and they do business in lakh.

“There are about 3,000 families in Gulbai Tekra and they are solely dependent on the sale of Ganesha idols,” said Marwari. The idol makers say that they begin their work in February and concl­ude a week before the festival.

“The unsold idols are dismantled and redone again for the next festival,” said Marwari.    Most idol makers claim that a medium-sized idol could fetch around Rs 25,000 and the big one a little more. Most members of families are into idol-making and women and children end up becoming assistants.After the Ganesha festival, they are start making idols of Ambe Mata which is mainly confined to Gujarat.

“The business of making idols end by the end of October and thereafter for three months we do other business like selling artificial jewellery or accessories on the roadside,” said Marwari. Some of the families do not even remember when their forefathers migrated from Raja­sthan.

“With the idol-making being a primary business, we have explored new markets like Madhya Pradesh and even remote areas of Maharashtra,” said Marwari. Though no idol-maker revealed the amo­unt they earn by sale of idols, they conce­de that it was lucrative for others to take up the family tradition. “After the idol-making season is over, some families move to their own houses in other parts of the state. But for making idols, they retu­rn to shanties in Gulbai Tekra and live for months together,’’ said Marwari.

Though the area has the look of a slum, the creativity of idol-makers that attracts buyers from all walks of life, from a housewife to representatives of business houses.

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