Each year, artisans from West Bengal travel to north Karnataka to sculpt idols of the elephant god Ganesha, lending the images an eastern touch that is reminiscent of goddess Durga who is widely worshipped in their native state.
“This city has been our second home for the past 18 years, as we migrate every summer from Kolkata to create Ganesha idols in varied hues for Ganesha Chaturthi festival,” chief artisan Appu Pal told IANS. The city is about 400 km from state capital Bangalore.
“We make about 45,000 Ganesha idols in various postures and sizes to sell in the local markets and also supply in others parts of Karnataka or in the neighbouring states of Goa and Maharashtra,” 43-year-old Pal said.
The 12-day annual festival begins on the fourth day of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Bhadrapada and marks the birth of Ganesha. This year it starts Saturday.
Sporting an elephant head with wide ears, a long trunk and a protruding belly, Ganesha is worshipped as the god of wisdom and prosperity by millions in India. And the festival is widely celebrated in southern and western India.
Though Pal and his skilled artisans return to Kolkata in time to craft idols for the Bengali festival of Durga Puja, which falls in mid October this year, he is firm on continuing what his father started.
“As my father used to make Ganesha idols for the people of this city and became famous, I have been trying to carry on his legacy with other artisans who too learnt the art of making idols from their fathers,” Pal recalled.
Once Pal got acquainted with Hubli, he has made it a point to spend four-five months a year here since the early nineties. He wooed a dozen fellow artisans in West Bengal to join him when they were not making Durga idols back home.
“We travel in groups with Appu from Kolkata by train and stay at a lodge in Marathagalli, close to the Kariyamma temple in old Hubli, and return to Bengal a month before Durga Puja to make her idols,” said Sapan Pal.
With smaller idols priced at Rs.250 and larger ones up to Rs.15,000, the artistic and aesthetic creations in clay or plaster of Paris have been rewarding for the Bengali artisans.
“I have been buying Ganesha idols from these artisans over the years as I find them better than those made by local artisans,” said Chandrashekhar Yaraguppi, an ardent buyer of Pals creations over the years.
The idols are the most sought after for their varying sizes, colourful features and shapes.
“Their fame and proximity prompted me to buy an idol from Pals and save on transporting them from a distance,” said Ujwala Annigiri, a resident of the old city.
The festival begins Saturday with various groups across the city installing about 250 huge idols, several of them made by the Pals of Bengal.
During Ganesh Chaturthi, the city attracts thousands of people from other districts of the state for a glimpse of Ganeshas idols in as many shapes and sizes.