Smaller idols, fewer mandals to mark Ganesh festival

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on August 21, 2020

New norm The Maharashtra Government has decried that the idol height at public places should not cross four feet   -  FRANCIS MASCARENHAS

New guidelines, in the aftermath of Covid, bring about changes this year

Lord Ganesha is all set to grace Maharashtrian homes on Saturday. But Bappa’s annual arrival will be a little different this year as Covid guidelines have shrunk the size of idols and toned down the 11-day festival’s trademark exuberance.

The mood is pensive at third-generation Ganesh idol-maker Sagar Pawar’s place in Pen town in Raigad district of Maharashtra. This year Pawar has made only 20,000 idols, about 10,000 lesser than last year. A decline in exports and new guidelines on idol sizes and forms have led to an almost 40 per cent dip in his business.

This year, the Maharashtra Government has decreed that the idol height, at public places, should not cross four feet while at home it should not exceed two feet. It has also asked devotees to opt for idols made from clay rather than Plaster of Paris (POP) so that they can be immersed at home.

The town of Pen and its surrounding villages are the largest mass-scale idol manufacturing area in Maharashtra with almost 1,500 workshops and about one lakh people engaged in the business. The local units export idols to places like the US, the UK and several South-East Asian countries.

According to Shreekant Deodhar, President of the artisan and workshop association in the area, local trade almost reaches ₹150 crore every year. However, this year the business is expected to touch only about ₹100 crore. With the ban on POP idols, many workshops have unsold inventories.

Two sides of the trade

On the other hand, business is unexpectedly flourishing for pottery makers. 39-year-old Yusuf Zakari Galwani, from Kumbharwada in Dharavi area of Mumbai, used to make clay idols for the festival as a hobby. He has been flooded with 800 orders for one-foot eco-friendly idols. Galwani is turning away people now as he says he has no time.

Galwani’s clay idols are mixed with basil seeds (Tulsi) and sold along with a garden pot. The idea being that the idol will disintegrate after use in the garden pot and the basil seeds will spring to life as plants.

Online platforms are also seeing a surge in orders for eco-friendly idols. Snapdeal, for example, has witnessed a six times increase in the sale of small Ganesh idols made with cow dung, natural soil and clay, compared to last year. Smart e-tailers are bundling the idols with musical instruments such as manjeras and dholkis that are traditional accompaniments to devotional songs.

Meanwhile, many Ganapati Mandals (associations) in the State have chosen to either opt out of the celebrations this year or keep it small, streaming the darshans at their pandals on Facebook Live and YouTube.

Sudhir Salvi, Secretary of Mumbai’s iconic Lalbaugcha Raja Ganapati Mandal, said this year they are cancelling the traditional celebrations. Instead, the Mandal will spend the corpus of funds collected on public services. Already ₹2 lakh each has been donated to the families of 22 Indian Army soldiers who were killed in the Galwan valley on the Indo-China border.

The elephant-headed God will no doubt approve the ‘new’ ways of celebration.

Published on August 21, 2020

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