Kendrapada, September 5 (odisha.in) Years after year, they make hundreds of clay status of deity Ganesh, Saraswati and several others in Orissa’s Kendrapada district, but prosperity , education and good fortune, that is attributed to god always elude them.
As thousands of devotees prepare to conduct “Ganesh Puja” on 15th, September, the artisans at Kumbharsahii village 5 km from here are busy giving final touches to the idols they have made on the occasion.
Many illiterate and poor children artisans are also making these images as their parents could not afford to provide them education. Ramesh Behera, 17 is one of such illiterate boys. He makes the idols since past five years.
He is lot alone. Kumharsahi has 40 families including men, women and children. All work in the making of idols of the gods and goddess during the festival seasons.
Raghu Behera 50, a sculptor said they make at least 400 images of Ganesh every year.
These we sell in the district and other areas of the state. He said till five years ago, all the artisans were making clay idols. At present they are using plaster of Paris with jute to make terracotta idols so that their products sell round the year.
Although the process for this is more complicated and labour intensive compared to the traditional style of idol making with clay.
“We earn about four thousand to make a five-feet high image of deity Ganesh . At least five potters work ten days to create the earthen image. My ten year son Gourang is also giving me helping hand to make the images”, said artisan Santosh Behera.
“We supply the images of Lord Ganesh to almost all the schools, colleges and other educational institutions. But our children never go to the schools for reading”, said Gadadhar Behera , 54 an artisan of Kumharsahi.
The new techniques give the idols a better finish and increases durability. The work often gets divided and sub-divided among the families with each member specialising in a particular aspect.
Another artisan, Dibakar Behera (35),who became an expert idol maker at the age of 17,said that it is a boom time during the each festival season but the idol making arts still lurks in the wings. Sidelined by the cheap plastic idols and lack of monetary support the age old craft is fighting for survival.
The bright colours and sparkle of the decorations of the idols hide the abject poverty of the artisans. Manas Behera (28) an artisan said even though the entire family pitches in to make the idols, most of the people find it difficult to eke out a living.
The artisans do not get any financial assistance from the government. Since idol making is a seasonal activity, banks shy away from lending them the required funds.
The only recourse left is to borrow from the money lenders as an astronomical annual interest rate up to 50 to 60 percent, alleged villager Madanmohan Behera 45.
“Once the festival is over, most of us rendered jobless till the next festivals. But few potters eke out their livings by making earthen pots and other items.
Three decades back, large number of people used to depend on earthen pots for cooking and keeping water in their homes. But now-a-days few people use the earthen items for their household purposes”, Pitambar Behera an artisan.
“We take great care to make the idols as perfect as possible knowing fully well that after the Puja celebration, idols were destined to be immersed in the rivers”, said Laxman Behera.