The unsung heroes of Ganesh celebrations

The Ganesh festival is not far away and all are busy making preparations. The busiest of them all, perhaps are the artisans community who work against time to make idols and other decorative items for their customers. For many of them, it is an age old occupation.

However, with rising costs, inadequate marketing tools, these artisans are facing a hard time. The Navhind Times takes a look at the artisans who are involved in making the makhars and other decorative items.
Ganeshutsav is celebrated with much fanfare in Goa. Enthusiasts get involved prior to the festival day to make colourful decorations. The themes are decided just before the idol is finished. Families do their shopping to buy various decorative items that come to the markets. Artisans work round the clock in order to meet their targets.
Demand for makhars or the arcs that surround the idol of Ganesh heightens. Artisans in this business say that such production needs raw materials that are economical, a case which is not to be. Hence many of the artistes have sought financial support. Artisan, Santosh Tukaram Pinge shares his grievances, “We shell out Rs 30,000-35,000 from our pockets each year to buy raw materials. The price of fevicol, high tendency thermocol, fabric paint, powder colours has increased tremendously making it difficult to make ends meet.” He adds, “For this reason we buy our materials as per the production requirement. Our business moves at a snails pace. We need Government support to prosper as this will also give us a free hand to experiment more and make us in a better position to market our products.”
Santosh is a qualified diploma holder in applied arts, Mumbai and runs his store in Panaji. He says that many times he has even approached the government for support in his business by sometimes asking for subsidies. Nothing materialised. He narrates his woes, “When I approached the Government, I was informed that my work did not fit into the framed guidelines. My concern here is when other artisans can enjoys similar benefits why not artisans like us. The decorative paper work that I do also has colourful designs and it is an art form too.” He further said, “Rules and regulations should be standardised for all artists.”
Until and unless artisans are not backed, it is difficult to do well as is the case of artisans like Santosh. Santosh has made 11 different kinds of makhars this season, each in an inimitable style. He sells 40 to 50 such makhars annually. The price ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 400 per piece. There includes small sized makhars (3 feet) and big sized ones (10 feet). His designs have touched the hearts of devotees so much so that they are in demand for sarvajanik Ganpati mandals. To keep the business going, Santosh also makes decorative items for weddings and engagements. “No one will find repetition in my designs. Every year, I experiment with patterns says Santosh proudly.
Santosh also trains children in making makhars and other decorative items occasionally.
Shrikant Shirodkar, another artisan at Ponda too struggles to sell the works he does. These include hand painting which is done in his signature style. He says, “Makhars at my stores exhibits designs of creepers along with colourful flowers.” He sells 25 makhars per year and earns 25,000 to 30,000. Nevertheless, he rues the fact that though Panaji, Margao and other places have a good market for makhars, in Ponda the business is slack. He explains, “I will be happier to benefit from any financial aid. I spend 15,000 for the raw material such as fluorescent colours, diamond powder, fabric colours, high tendency thermacol and other stationary items.”
Shrikant like other artisans hardly makes a substantial profit on the business as his shop is located in the interiors. He says, “I do the work on my own because labour is costly.” Villagers come to me to learn sometimes. Makhars from my shop can last for a maximum of five years because of the high quality materials used.”
This year Shrikant has made a unique design for the sarvajanik Ganpati. He says, “I have used the concept of rats, the carrier of Lord Ganesha to make the makhar in a 3D mode.” Shrikant experiments making makhars of temples, round pillars and other shapes too.