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 Ganesh Chaviti

DHOOLPET, THE BIRTH PLACE OF GANESHA

Every year Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrations start on Bhadrapada, Shukla Chaturthi (the fourth day of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu Almanac). In the twin cities Ganesh Chaturthi begins with the installation of the Lord Ganesh idols on the enmarked day and ends with immersion of the idols in the Hussainsagar or near by water bodies, on the tenth day from installation.

Though the festival is celebrated as community function by installing large Ganesh Idols in the decorated pandals, most of the Hindu families also install small idols in their houses and perform puja for three to ten days. Thousands of Ganesh idols are required to cater the needs of the twin cities people during the festival. Where and who make this many number of idols every year? It is interesting to know that most of these idols are made at Dhoolpet and its surroundings like Mangalhat, Ganga Bowli, located in the old city of Hyderabad.

Ganesha dancing on the hood of a snakeDhoolpet is a tiny locality, where more than a 100 families of the Lodhi Kshatriya community are engaged in making Ganesh idols of all sizes and shapes. They have been doing this year after year. For generations together. From one generation to the other, the art and skill of making idols is passed on. Today, more than five thousand men and women are earning their livelihood from this idol-making industry.

It is estimated that every year, Dhoolpet artists collectively make more than ten thousand idols, worth 3 to 5 crore rupees. They not only supply the idols to buyers from Hyderabad and Secunderabad but also to several of them in neighbouring districts. Thousands of idols are in finishing stages and they have been shifted to the temporary sheds as there are no huge permanant sheds to accommodate them.

Sarpa GaneshaMaking an idol is not an easy thing. There are no machines to produce huge idols on a mass scale. Moreover the buyers demand uniqueness and creativity. The artists have to use their hands to mould the 'Plaster of Paris' into a perfect Ganesh. 'A ten feet high idol takes 20 days; it can be sold for 10 thousand rupees', said Ganesh Singh. He is one of the biggest producers of idols of Dhoolpet. He is well known for making them in huge quantities as well as in awesome sizes. He told us that he invests 2-3 lakh rupees in every season.

Talking about the changes in people's tastes, Ganesh Singh said that, "earlier people used to buy whatever kind of idol we made. But now times have changed. People want us to make exclusive models for them. This is a challenging task. To us, to our creativity and imagination. But we are able to meet the challenges. I have made a variety of Ganesh idols on different backgrounds. Like that of Ganesh in the company of Shiridi Sai Baba, Balaji and Mahadev."

Vinayaka with his parents and NaradaGanesh Singh also revealed the intricacies in the method of making idols. He said that the Dhoolpet artists use coconut coir to reinforce the plaster of Paris and chalk powder for giving finishing touches. They procure these materials from local dealers. Generally, up to five feet height idols can be produced with one mould. But when come to making of huge idols like 10 to 15 in height, Dhoolpet artists make the different parts of the idol like legs, hands, body, face separately by using moulds. " We start making these parts, prior to six months from the date of festival. When the festival is just one month away , we start assemble these parts to make a complete idol. We paint colours and give finishing touches to the idol just one or two days before the delivery," added Ganesh Singh.

Nowadays some Bengali artists are also making Ganesh idols. Unlike the Dhoolpet artists they use mud, grass and sticks. They also make lavish use of materials like thermocol and other fancy items to make the idols look more attractive. Prithviraj Singh, one of the statue maker, famous for making huge idols of 10 to 15 feet said, " earlier people were crazy for the huge idols ranging between 15 to 20 feet. Since, police authorities banned the making and installation of huge idols, people now going for the attractive designs made by the Bengali's. This trend is eating out our business. But we are helpless."

Ganesha made of coinsAccording to Ganesh Singh, though thousands of people are involved in this industry, it has not yet been taken in on the list of the small scale industries. Because of this, the banks and the financial institutions are unable to lend a helping hand to meet their financial needs. As a result, the Dhoolpet artists are forced to borrow from private financiers, who charge a whopping ten per cent interest per month. Most of the profit earned by the Dhoolpet artists goes into the pockets of these private financers.
These artists toil 12 hours a day, throughout the year, to make Ganapati, Durga Devi and Bhagwan Shankar. They enjoy their creative and aesthetic work. But the blessings of the gods and goddesses for making a comfortable living continues to elude them.

Read more about the first Vinayak Chaviti in Hyderabad


-Mohan G Jagan
Pics: G. Devendranath
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