Artisans stare at penury as no buyers for Ravana effigies
With the festival of Dussehra still around a month away, artisans who earn their livelihood by making effigies of demon king Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana, son Meghnada and others are staring at a bleak future as there are no buyers this time for their artefacts in the largest effigy market in Titarpur in Delhi.
Disappointment is writ large on the faces of both aritsans and traders in the Titarpur market adjacent to Tagore Garden as buyers are few and far between, amid the uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In normal times, one could see scores of artisans busy making effigies of the demon king and others many weeks ahead of Dussehra year after year. The craftsmen could be seen toiling in the sun to give shapes to the effigies of different sizes and colours on the roadsides, parks, and even terraces of houses in Titarpur. But such scenes have vanished this year amid the pandemic.
Traders rued that the pandemic played a spoilsport for their brisk business expectations this year since the sale was also lukewarm the previous year due to the ban on firecrackers at many places. As a result, the traders had suffered heavy losses.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the 'bhoomi pujan' of the new Ram temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, effigy traders were hopeful that people will celebrate Dussehra this year on a grand scale. But traders fear this is unlikely to happen in 2020.
It is pertinent to mention here that before Dussehra, hundreds of craftsmen from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana trooped in at Titarpur, and worked day and night to make effigies as per the orders placed by customers.
According to the traders, effigies of Ravana and others were burnt by the thousands in Delhi every year, but this time not even a single order to make such effigies had been placed so far. All artisans and craftsmen were sitting idle as a result, they griped.
Pawan, 45, said he had been making effigies since the age of 12, which ranged from five feet to 60 feet every year. "Ravana effigies made by me were even sent to Australia. Every year, I made more than 50 Ravana effigies, which were then transported to different places across the country for burning on Dussehra," he recalled.
Pawan told IANS: "Every year, I used to receive orders from many places to make the effigies. But this year, I have received not even a single call. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our work has came to a standstill. Every year, we used to collect whole year's earnings ahead of Dussehra. But this year, it is not so."
"My whole family has been doing this work for years. We eagerly awaited the festive season earlier on. But this time, we all have been forced to sit idle at home. We are now anxious as to how we will spend the whole year with meagre earnings."
"Last year, the ban on firecrackers impacted our business. I am repaying the debt to this day. This year, I had high hopes since the 'bhoomi pujan' of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple was also performed. We felt that this year's Dussehra will be celebrated in grand style but it does not seem so," Pawan added.
Another effigy-maker Ram Gopal said: "Labour and artisans from Himachal Pradesh, Moradabad, Bareilly, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan used to come here and make effigies. But this time, all of them are not even stepping out of their home states."
"We don't have any other work, nor can we do any other job besides effigy-making. We eagerly waited for the Dussehra season -- this is how our family earned a living. We request the central government to think about our well-being," he said.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty looms large over whether the authorities will allow the burning of effigies on Dussehra this year. The artisans and traders, meanwhile, prefer to keep their fingers crossed and look heavenward for divine succour. - IANS