Ideal in all ways

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Younger generation Goans are shying away from the traditional activity of idol making,
but Ganaraj Naik of Divar is an exception
By Team B&C
With just a few days to Ganesh Chaturthi, the excitement of a major festival approaching is rife in the air. For the traditional moortikars (idol makers), however, it is a busy period as they go about with brush in hand for the final, applying finishing touches to the rotund body of the much-loved deity of Goans.
There are several unfinished statues in rough yellow clay for Ganaraj Shrikant Naik to finish before he can call in a day. But the young man who is Divar’s only idol maker does not mind talking about sculpting statues in a hectic day. He is actually a private taxi owner who drives tourist taxis in the busy season. Moreover, he took over the mantle of being the island’s sole idol only recently due to the demise of his father Shrikant Naik a week ago.
The sudden death is a setback in all ways and it is a big emotional loss but Naik has taken to his role of a village idol maker with ease. In future too, he is confident of continuing the job of his father and says that the family practice of idol making will never be ditched. Each festival the taxi business is kept aside to help his father in idol-making and this year with the added responsibility of doing all the work, he is “fully immersed in the trade.”
The family, says Naik, was always making idols with earliest memories of his grandfather in the business. Thus, he learnt the art at an early age and is well-versed with procedure. This year he got in elderly Vasudev Bhagat from Marcel to help with the painting, but in future, with younger brother’s help, all work will be done by the family, he says.
Preparations begin about two months in advance when field clay is brought in from Tivim. About eight-nine kgs of clay is purchased, says Naik, and it is properly cleaned and pounded before becoming soft enough for molding. The colours are sourced from the state and care is taken to see that no toxic colouring is used.
Each family, says Naik, have their favorite shop for buying idols and village artisans like him have regular clientele. Thus, he makes about 50 idols which are pre-booked by local residents. Just a few idols go across the river to Caranzalem to regular customers who have been buying from him for years. The price this year has not increased and idols will sell in the range of Rs 1,000-1,200, he says.
Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols are increasingly being purchased in Goa and Naik is disturbed over the trend. PoP statutes are cheaper and lighter but they are ecologically damaging. People should refrain from buying them and they must be banned by the government, he says. Having non-clay idols also goes against the principle of the festival and therefore he would never deal with them. The sight of bodies of the deity floating in the river after ‘visarjan’ is another distressing experience and one that he can’t bear to see year after year.
Idol making, says Naik, can never be the single livelihood of an individual as there is barely any money in it. Further, the occupation is seasonal and cannot give regular income. Artisan families do it for the sheer love of the art and to carry on with traditions, he says.
Eco-friendly idols are advertised widely and cost the earth. They are much sought after by the elite but are a major con job by sellers, according to this seasonal taxi driver-turned artisan. Traditional idol makers like him are environment friendly in all ways and rich customers would be doing the local economy a favour by buying from traditional artisans, he says.
Idols can also be purchased online on Amazon or Snapdeal with money back guarantee. However, that is another trend which goes against the ethos of Ganesh festival and is detrimental to the interests of local idol makers is Naik’s opinion.

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