While Pune is celebrating the 125th year of Ganesh Chaturthi with much pomp and fanfare, a 70-year-old lady has been quietly contributing towards making it a success.
The city of Pune is in a festive mood with hundreds of idols being installed across the city. There are huge mandaps, innumerable prasad options and thousands being spent on decorating the idol’s of the Elephant God.
Started in the 1890s by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the festival also provides employment to many across the city.
Kamal Belsar, a city artist and idol sculptor, is one such lady who has been earning livelihood by crafting idols throughout her life. And her family has been doing this for generations..
“Everyone prays to Bappa for a healthy and wealthy life but not everyone one is willing to spend enough to bring him to their houses,” says Kamal, who owns a small makeshift idol making shop near Sadashiv Peth.
“It’s been more than hundred years since my ancestors started making Ganpati idols. We are the fourth generation making the idols. Our family started this business the year after Lokmanya Tilak started the Sarvajanik Ganesh Sthapna.
“Earlier the idols were made of mud (kali maati) stuffed with cotton. The entire process of making the idols was so difficult that often our hands were hurt while making those idols.
“From getting the right mud to preparing it for molding and then drying and painting, it was much time consuming and involved lots of patience and hard work.
“But now since the idols are made of Plaster of Paris, the process of making them has become very easy. It approximately takes four to five hours to make one Idol that involves colouring and final touches,” she adds.
“I got married at the age of 10 and then learned this art of making idols at my in-laws. Now I am 70 and I still help my family in making beautiful idols of not only Lord Ganesha, but other Gods and Goddesses as well.
“We are a family of seven and our entire income comes from only idol making. Even my grandchildren help me in this process of making Idols.
We start making idols from the month of May to December and then from January to April we don’t make any. Whatever we spend in those four months are our savings as we have no income,” she adds.
Kamal says that although eco-friendly Ganpati idols are the talk of the town now, the demand for the Plaster of Paris Ganeshas are still high.
Talking about the price range, she says, “The price range of idols at our shop start from Rs 500. The tallest idol we made was six-feet tall that cost Rs 12,000. In total, till now we have sold 250 statues of Lord Ganesha.
“Whatever we could not sell, we keep in stock for the next year. The basic structure of the idol remains strong. It only needs painting and re-touching to be sold next year.
“We are happy with whatever we earn. This is our only source of livelihood,” she adds.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the respondent.
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