By Bhagyashree Kulthe, DNA

The demand for ‘green’ Ganesh idols has gone up among overseas Maharashtrians, posing fresh challenges of exporting the delicate clay (shadu) idols for Pune-based suppliers.

Pune-based consumer cooperative supermarket, Grahak Peth, has exported 20 shadu idols this year to China, London, Dubai, Australia, Canada and the United States.

“Earlier, Maharashtrians staying abroad worshipped idols made from plaster of Paris (PoP). However, since the last couple of years, the trend has shifted to worshipping clay idols,’’ managing director of Grahak Peth, Suryakant Pathak said. Sunita Kulkarni was the first customer of Grahak Peth this year to send idol to her relatives in China.

Pathak said awareness about eco-friendly idols was growing. Grahak Peth had had kept only 100 PoP idols this year, which could not all be sold. However, all 4,000 clay idols were sold out before Ganesh Chaturthi, according to Pathak.

Guruprasad Enterprises, which claims to have made shadu idols following the rituals in the holy books, exported 60 idols. Their idols were mainly sent to Russia, New Zealand, US, Australia and England, according to manager Sachin Tagade.

“There are clear indications about making idols for Ganesh puja in our shastras. We are keen on following this. Demand poured in from other countries for shadu idols, thanks to the awareness among people,’’ said Tagade.

However, exporting shadu idols is a challenge. Expert packing is needed to avoid damaging the idols which are comparatively delicate. Vasant Desai of Desai Bandhu Ambewale said they had been exporting a limited number of shadu idols as it is risky.

“Exporting PoP idols is easy as the idols are tough and can be packed easily. But we need expert packing for shadu idols,’’ said Desai.

Grahak Peth tied up with Fairdeal Couriers last year to export the idols. Pathak said considering the increasing demand from local families with NRI relatives, they had tied up with the courier service to ensure safe delivery of the idols.

Sachin Tagade said, “We are involved only in sale of shadu idols. Hence, we concentrate on special packing. These idols have to be handled with care. Also, exporting these idols is costlier.’’