PONDA: Ganesh idols made of plaster of paris (PoP) are still on sale this ‘Chovoth’, despite the ban.
Traditional artisans from Goa believe that the ban can be effective only if the people change their attitude and buy only clay idols.
The devotees who are being lured by the glossy painting and finish of the PoP idols should realize the sacred meaning of the devotion of the ‘chikanmati’ or clay idols in order to stop the sale PoP idols in the state.
Says Prasad Chari, a traditional artisan from Shiroda in Ponda taluka “The PoP artisans have found a way around the ban and its as simple as smearing a layer of ‘chikanmati’ or clay over the PoP, which when painted upon reveals no trace of the PoP beneath.
“Ganesh idol makers are using various gimmicks to get around the ban of PoP images,” says Chari. “If you want to check these idols all you have to do is scratch the paint to verify the material used,” he continued. However, a scratched or mutilated idol cannot be worshipped, so few people would actually do that.
Traditional artisans are demanding that the government keep a check on ‘murtikars’ (idol makers) in Goa right from the time they start making idols till their final painting. ‘The Goa handicrafts rural and small scale industries development corporation (GHRSSIDC) officers come to check the idol making of the artisans seeking government grants. Such officers must check the idols made by the artisans by lightly tapping it, if it is made up of PoP, it would sound different,’ Chari suggests.
Ponda MLA Lavoo Mamledar, who is also GHRSSIDC chairman, has welcomed the suggestions. He said that he would think over the suggestions. “There are several agencies involved in checking the quality and material of the idols. The idol material is checked by the science and technology department and I cannot instruct their officers to check the idols for PoP. Moreover, it should be the people who worship the lord who must stop worshipping the PoP idols,” Mamledar said.
Mamledar, however, admitted a suggestion of artisans’ that the government can conduct survey of households worshipping Ganesh and it can be tallied with the number of idols being produced in the state to know the exact figure of idols imported from other states. Such outside idol suppliers can be questioned for the violation of ban, he said.
“Besides having an adverse impact on the environment, PoP idols have also affected the business of the traditional artisans,” says Umanath Naik from Nageshi, Ponda. Sales of clay idols have fallen considerably in the past years as the PoP images are more glossy and attractive than those of the clay idols.
“Due to inflation, cost of paint and other products have gone up. Due to its labour-friendly characteristics, PoP is easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay and has made inroads into the manufacture of clay idols,” said Ramanath Naik, another artisan and brother of Umanath.
“Worshipping clay idols is a meant to worship nature. The matoli (several fruits, herbs and flowers tied to a frame in front of the lord) has also significance and devotees must imbibe the importance and real sense of it,” Ramanath urges.
Giving a break-up of the cost of making an idol, Krishna Bandekar, an artisan from Ponda said, “About 40% goes towards salaries, 20% on raw materials, 10% on paint, 5% on rent of a spacious hall and another 15% on miscellaneous expenses. What we get is a profit of just 10% and if lucky 20%”.
“This is resulting in fewer artisans taking to idol making. The art of idol-making is waning,” lamented Umanath, Ramanath, Krishna and Prasad.
But despite the financial constraints, most of the traditional artisans continue in the profession. Prasad Chari said, “We continue the business because it is believed that a ‘Ganapatishala’ (Ganesh-making centre) should never be shut. Our ‘Ganapatishala’ had been started by my forefathers. It has continued through generations and we do not wish to break the tradition,” Umanath said.
But, Umanath and Bandekar are continuing the tradition by partly outsourcing the work. Bandekar said, “I get the clay kneaded from Bicholim and Mandrem. This saves time, but pre-kneaded clay dries fast so we have to take much care.”
While Prasad Chari has devised a small mill-like-machine to knead the clay, he works along with his father Jaiwant and brother Surya.Share on Facebook
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