JAJPUR , 4/9/2016 ( Odisha Samachar / Akshya Rout)- Years after year, they make hundreds of clay status of deity Ganesh , the symbols of knowledge , education, good fortune and prosperity , but prosperity , education and good fortune, the attributes of the God Ganesh elude the sculptors and their children in Jajpur district.
As thousands of devotees prepare to conduct “Ganesh Puja” on 5st, September , the artisans at Kumbharsahii village 5 km from here are busy giving finishing touches to the idols. Many illiterate and poor artisans are making the images of the knowledge and good fortune as their parents could not afford to provide them education. Ramesh Behera (17)is one of the illiterate boys who makes idols since five years .
Not many in the district and its nearby areas, who celebrate the festival with verve and devotion, know that the beautifully crafted idols come from a nondescript village Kumharsahi. About 40 families of the village including men, women and children, contribute their mite to the making of the idols of the gods and goddess during the sundry festival seasons.
Raghu Behera (50) a sculptor said they made about 400 images of Ganesh every year. These were sold 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 have graduated to using plaster of Paris with jute to make terracotta idols. The process 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 an artisan Manoj 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 Madanmohan Behera (45) of village Kumbharsahi..
“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”, Rama 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 manas Behera.
Social worker Dr suresh chandra dalai suggested that idol makers should stick to use of environment-friendly colours and materials so that there shall be no adverse impact on our surroundings.
“Many idol makers use chemical colours and other materials that degrade our environment and cause health hazards. We must refrain from such practices and adopt techniques to make environment-freely idols,” said dr dalai