Having a sustained conversation with Nayanar at his stall of Ganapathi idols in an encyclopaedia of sizes, hues and textures located off the bylanes of Purasawalkam, seems difficult, thanks to an incessant stream of enquiries he receives from either in person or over the phone. And why not, for Ganesh Chathurti — the festival when they would do maximum business — is just over a week ahead, on September 9. Needless to say, the bylanes, which are also Chennai’s hub for the Ganesha idols, are all geared up for the occasion.
Ganeshas in pastel shades, black and white, riding various mounts – from the traditional mouse to horses and even unicorns and chariots are neatly arranged across the sides of the lanes. Add the elements of lighting and traditional offerings, and it is plausible that the newcomer may assume it to be a Navarathri kolu doll arrangement.
Paper mache and Plaster of Paris idols clearly seem to be the flavour of the season, as stocks at most of the stalls are of these materials. “Look at this,” he says, pointing to a nine-foot tall grey-tinged Ganesha idol, with its mount in vivid colours in a wide base. “This can be lifted by just two persons without much effort,” he says, while driving home the USP of the materials. He elaborates that most of the idols are sourced from Andhra Pradesh, particularly Tirupati, and painted here, before they make the transition to the pandals across the city. The price of the idol depends on its height, with the final figure arrived at after including all costs. Satyanarayanan, another dealer, who runs his stall nearby, says that most go by the thumb-rule of rate-slabs depending on the idol height. “For idols upto three feet height, the charge is Rs 1,000/ ft, Rs 1,500 if the height ranges between six- seven feet. beyond the charge would be Rs 2,000/foot. Although regulations stipulate the maximum height of the idols at 10 feet, we usually craft it a little taller,” says Satyanarayanan, who has also sourced his idols from Tirupathi. Last year, he sold around 85 idols, making a net profit of around Rs 10,000. The two however, state that their clientele insist that the idols stick to tradition and are not too fashionable.
If the idols are to arrive in time for Ganesh Chathurti, then work begins a good four-five times, they add. However, Sankar, a native of Rajasthan, who has been crafting the idols made out of plaster of Paris, in an open plot near Neelankarai, puts it at six. He adds that work begins with crafting the die for the idols, followed by the formation of different parts of the idols such as the trunk and the large ears in different moulds. “The finishing touches for the idols, which are coloured using spray and oil paints, need to be made at least a month in advance,” Sankar, who has been residing here for the last eight months or so, explains. At least 50 such idols have been assembled under a thatched roof shelter, where they lie waiting before shipment to their clients. These idols are also priced similarly, with a 10-feet idol, costing not less than `eight to `nine thousand