As Ganesh Chaturthi draws closer, the idol artisans of Canacona revive their century old tradition of sculpting clay idols on which they work upon with great aesthetic skills and finesse.
In spite of shortcomings in finances, labour and most importantly fetching of clay, all the Canacona idol makers have kept alive the tradition of sculpting idols for generations. In fact, there are more than 100 artisans with workshops in Cotigao, Goandongrim, Partagal, Loliem, Maxem, Poiguinim, Tarir, CharRasta, and Agonda.
At the buzzing workshop at CharRasta, Poojan Chari is busy adding the finishing touches to a two feet tall idol. “The preparation for making these idols begins well in advance; about four- five months ahead of the festival as clay being the only raw material has to be ordered, bought and fetched,” he says. “We don’t use plaster of paris and all the idols are eco-friendly made from mud and other biodegradable items.”
The festivity mood in Canacona sets in once the artisans start making the idols. But it is sheer hard work and creativity for all the craftsmen. Manoj Prabhugoankar from Maxem is self-employed for most part of the year. Four months ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi however he turns to idol making.
Detailing the process of moulding these articles, he says that after procuring the clay it is mixed well and lumps removed to obtain a consistent concoction. As it dries, the clay dough is prepared and then the idol is either moulded or hand sculpted. With consistent rains this year however, the idols had to be dried using fans and took a longer time to dry. Moulding images, painting expressions, poise, grace, and giving the images its shades and colours needs detailed supervision, he adds.
Around 250 idols are made in each workshop and normally all the artisans have regular customers who order idols well in advance. Some also get customers from the neighbouring places of Karwar and Mazali in Karnataka.
Speaking on the hardships faced, most artisans opine that the assistance granted to them by the government is negligible when compared to the cost of clay, expensive manpower, paints and other decorative items used, besides their time and labour.
The sculptors in their request to the Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation (HRSSIDC) and the government have asked for a higher subsidy and measures to provide free clay to traditional idol makers to maintain and preserve this century old tradition.
“We don’t make much profit for this but it is our passion and devotion that keeps us going as artisans,” they say.