Recession over, but few takers for Durga idols abroad

September 27th, 2010 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Aparajita Gupta
Kolkata, Sep 27 (IANS) Recession may have ebbed, but artisans of the potters’ colony Kumartuli here say export orders for idols for next month’s Durga Puja festival have picked up only marginally compared to last year.

“We in Kumartuli have received a slightly higher number of orders compared to last year,” Babu Pal, who is an artisan and secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpa Sanskriti Samity, which has 340 members, told IANS.

Babu Pal himself has not got an export order this year, though he had got one last year. His family has been in the profession of idol-making for the last 35 years.

Kumartuli - also spelt Kumortuli - is a traditional potters’ quarter in northern Kolkata. The artisans here not only supply clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses to the public pujas in Kolkata and its neighbourhoods but also execute overseas orders for several idols.

Last year the total export order in Kumartuli was 32. “This year we are marginally up at 37,” Babu Pal said. Before recession hit Western economies, orders used to number around 40-42 every year.

The five-day festival of Durga Puja, the biggest in eastern India and set to begin Oct 14 this year, sees huge idols of goddess Durga and her children being worhsipped at public marquees amid much revelry.

It is celebrated on a smaller scale abroad. This year most orders have come from places like Britain, the US, Germany, Canada and Russia. But artisans say, even though recession is over, Indians abroad are not splurging on festivals yet.

There are around 100 artisans working in the dingy earthen houses in Banamali Sarkar Lane. They start dispatching the idols to foreign countries two to three months before the Durga Puja as it takes at least 45 days to reach the destination country by ship.

Earlier the artisans used to send clay idols abroad, but now these have been replaced by fibre glass ones, which are much lighter, easy to transport and long lasting. “The transport cost is borne by customers abroad,” he said.

The cost of fibre glass idols is usually on the higher side, he said, adding these are priced at more than Rs.100,000 ($2,200), whereas idols made of pith cost much less around Rs.50,000-60,000 (over $1,100).

Idols are usually exported to countries like Britain, the US, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, South Africa and Indonesia.

Debraj Rudra Paul, 29, who is also in this profession, told IANS: “We have not received any export orders this year. Last year we got one export order.”

He rued that exports had been hampered by recession and had not revived even now.

Mantu Paul, whose family has been making clay idols for the last 80 years, told IANS: “I haven’t got any order this year.”

He said another artisan he knew had bagged export orders for just three idols though earlier that man would supply at least 10 every year.

(Aparajita Gupta can be contacted at aparajita.g@ians.in)

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