Idol makers of Pen near Mumbai are literally burning the midnight oil to meet deadlines as the Ganesh festival approaches.
The Ganesh festival commences on September 2, the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Located at nearly three hours drive from Mumbai, the Pen tehsil in Raigad is the hub of idol making and lakhs of idols of Lord Ganesha are made here.
On July 26-27, Mumbai's adjoining districts of Raigad, Thane and Palghar received heavy rainfall leading to flooding at several locations, which impacted the idol-making process.
The 'Made in Pen' idols not only cater to Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik but also to all of Maharashtra. Idols made here also go to other continents like America, Europe and Australia.
"We have suffered heavy losses, raw material was damaged, washed away," said Anant Mokal of Hamrapur village.
"Idols take a long time to dry up," Mokal said, adding that deliveries start around this time.
The karkhanas (workshops) in Pen are buzzing with the activities and karigars (artisans) are busy giving the final touches to idols, whether made of 'shaadu' or Plaster-of-Paris. "In most of the workshops, the painting process is starting now and then final touches will be given... charcoal is being burnt to ensure that the idols dry fast," he said.
"Pen is an old town... in the 1890s, when the festival started following initiatives of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Pen too gained prominence in idol making," said veteran photojournalist Palashranjan Bhaumick, who annually goes to Pen and document the idol-making process.
Idols ranging from less than one feet to 14 feet are made here. "A one-feet idol is of the range of Rs 400 to 500, while a 10-foot idol would cost between Rs 30,000 to 40,000. As far as numbers are concerned, for a fortnight before the Ganapati festival, 100 vehicles are loaded daily, which may have up to 40 to 50 idols depending on size," said a member of Pen Murtikar Sangathana.
In a cluster of villages, there are over 1,500 workshops. "Pen idols has its own demand," said Ajit Joshi, who is an expert on various small businesses of Mumbai and its suburbs.