Thursday, September 9, 2010


With recent advances in technology making in-roads into every walk of our lives, the traditional way of doing things are slowly giving way to mass online products at factory outlets. One such victim is the traditional clay models of Ganesha idols, that were made by hand using raw clay (not baked), being replaced by glittering Plaster of Paris(PoP) Ganeshas produced using moulds & painted.

About 35 potter families living in Kumbarageri, off Irwin Road in city, who have been traditionally making Lord Ganesha and Gowri idols every year during the festival using only raw clay are a worried lot as the demand for the idols this year has not reached their expected mark compared to previous years. Sculpting of idols usually begins several months in advance and is a time consuming job as each idol is moulded with bare hands.

Speaking to Star of Mysore, Revanna, a trader of these idols on K.T. Street, observed that the readymade idols brought from other States for sale here has affected the local artisans badly.

The Yuva Mandalis, who celebrated the festival on a grand scale by erecting Pandals and Shamiyanas near street corners, are also gradually dwindling.

They always placed orders for huge idols which in turn fetched higher profits for traders. With the number of such associations organising the event on the wane, the traders are forced to depend only on individual customers.

To add variety to the Mysore style of Ganesha idols, traders are catering to customers who insist on new designs. Based on demand, traders bring idols with various designs and styles made in Mumbai and Kolkata. In spite of local artisans from Kumbarageri catering to the bulk of the demand, many traders continue to get idols from outside. While the Mumbaistyle idols are sourced from Mumbai and Pune, traders sometimes source them from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Idols are also brought from Tumkur and Bangalore. Some have even ventured selling Gok-arna-style idols. The characteristic feature of Gokarna Ganesha is that it does not sport a crown. According to legend, Ganesha's crown was struck down by Ravana at Gokarna for placing Shiva’s Athmalinga on the earth.

Revanna says though he is not interested in bulk sales, he still manages to sell some idols every year, in spite of being affected by the recession. He says the Mumbai idols have their own set of customers. He claims that he is the only dealer selling idols that conform to the norms set by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). While the idols brought by others is made of PoP, his is made of clay. The sale of clay idols has not picked up despite being eco-friendly and having religious connotations. A small percentage of his customers do not immerse the idols after the festival. They keep the idols in their house for their sheer artistic and aesthetic values. This also prevents environmental pollution to some extent, he says.

To minimise lead poisoning, Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd. (MPVL) along with the Mysore branch of KSPCB has persuaded artisans to use only lead-free paint on Ganesha and Gowri idols. Revanna said: "I paint my idols with lead-free paints supplied by MPVL. It is beneficial both for us as well as the environment. I even encourage other idol-makers to follow this."

In spite of all these odds, artisan in Kumbarageri are still continuing their tradition by bringing out new designs every year.


• It was due to the efforts of freedom fighter and social reformer Lokamanya Balagangadahar Tilak that organising Ganesha festivals attained the status of a popular public event which brought the masses together from various backgrounds turning them into a force against the British rule.

• Ganesha idols made of clay is considered to be more auspicious as according to the Puranic references the first idol of the Lord was made out of grime and mud.

• Idols made of PoP or painted with synthetic paints when immersed in local water bodies, increases the salinity of the surface water resulting in skin diseases. These PoP idols float on water and are not dissolved. Drinking such water leads to indigestion in both humans and cattle.

• Pramod Vitthal Palav, a sculptor from Kankavali in Sindhudurg, has invented an idol manufacturing process by mixing clay with fig tree juice, paper and glue. The mixture dissolves in water in less than 15 minutes.

Puja at the press of a button!

As priests are in heavy demand on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi and with the pujas lasting a couple of hours, people find it difficult to get priests to visit their homes and perform pujas. It is the same technology that has once again come to the rescue — Pre-recorded audio cassettes are available on sale that details the procedures for performing the Puja along with the relevant mantras. One has to just press the button to play this cassette and proceed with the worship!

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