It's that time of the year when divinity is felt all over. People are readying their houses and minds to welcome Lord Ganesha, one of the most loved Hindu gods.
While the festivities over the last two years remained subdued, this year Goa is expecting to celebrate the festival in a big way, which for the business community is welcome news.
Ganesh idol makers, who found the going tough, are also upbeat. Some of them have already started getting orders for the idols.
Atmesh (Aba) Talkar, an idol maker from Keri, Pernem, but presently based in Dhargal, owns a Ganapati Chitrasala which is packed with some completed and unfinished Ganesha idols.
Speaking to GT, Talkar said that he likes to make all kinds of idols, but there is something divine about carving Ganeshas.
Talkar said idol-making in the family has been a part and parcel of their lifestyle since the time of his forefathers. Talkar’s great grandfather was also into idol making and now the younger generation is carrying forward this divine legacy.
When asked if idol-making was profitable, Talkar said, "The clay which is being used to make the idols is brought from Mandrem, Varkhand and Insuli (a village in Sawantwadi taluka in Maharashtra). The cost of buying this clay has gone up. This is because of mining activities, excavation of mud from the hills and usage of earthmovers to extract more clay which is used for idol making."
"Things have changed since our forefathers' time. Earlier, Ganesh idols were available for purchase for 12 or 20 paise. Now a two-feet Ganesha idol would cost Rs 5000 and above."
When asked about challenges posed to traditional idol makers by PoP idols, Talkar said, "PoP idols are 100 per cent problematic because they are sold at a lower cost. Despite so much awareness, some people still prefer to buy PoP idols brought from Kolhapur and other places in Maharashtra."
"I strongly feel that the local elected representatives should take the initiative to protect the interest of Goan artists," he added.
Is Ganesh idol making profitable? Talkar said that the profit margin is very small considering the cost and time taken to make clay idols. "For us to earn good profits, PoP idols should be completely banned in the market," he said.
When asked if the present generation is showing interest in Ganesh idol making, Talkar said that his son, brother and even his wife are actively involved in the activity.
Sanguem-based idol maker, Gurunath Vaikunth Govekar, has been making idols for the last 48 years, having started at age 14. “Initially we used to bring clay from Paroda. Later, we started getting it from Varkhand and presently from Bansai-Curchorem. We make Ganesh idols of 1.3 feet to 4 feet in height in Sanguem area," he said.
Giving his opinion on PoP idols, he said these should not be used as per the Hindu tradition. PoP idols don't dissolve in water but clay does. That's the reason many a time PoP idols are washed ashore after they are immersed in the sea."
In Pernem, a Hindu priest, Rajiv Barve, has been into idol making since his childhood. Idol-making has been a part of our family tradition, he said and added, "My grandfather and father were popular in Korgao, Harmal and nearby villages for their art of idol making," he said.
He too has nothing good to say about PoP idols. "People should stop purchasing these idols. Worshipping Ganeshas made out of natural clay is showing gratitude towards mother earth. On the other hand, the PoP idols don't dilute in water and are polluting," he mentioned.
In Goa, PoP idols are banned, but despite that, the agencies concerned have not been able to crack a whip against its sale.