Sundakkamuthur locality is brimming with activity for the last few weeks. It’s the workplace of the brother trio — S Saravanakumar, S Yoganantham and S Senthil Kumar, who are giving the final touches to the Ganesha idols that are getting ready to be dispatched for Vinayagar Chathurthi. “This is the busiest time of the year,” Saravanakumar tells us, as he paints the eyes of a 13-feet high Ganesha.
“I was just ten years old when I started drawing the eyes of small Ganesha idols. It’s been 25 years now. I learnt the art from my father P Shanmugam,” says Saravanakumar adding, “I put my heart and soul in idol-making. The entire family comes together for this process and it’s a celebration of sorts. It was only natural that I followed my father’s footsteps.”
Once the idols are ready, they are covered with a polythene sheets. The idols are shipped to Tiruppur, Mettupalayam, Nilgiris, Pollachi, Udumalpet, and Kerala. “We usually start the process of making moulds for the new designs in January. We then make the papier-mache designs for the bigger idols in February. Papier-mache is lightweight and hence it is used in the bigger idols, so that it can be transported easily. The smaller ones are made out of clay. While the clay is sourced from Perur Chettipalayam, lime powder is brought in from Pollachi, tapioca powder and papier-mache is sourced from the city. As far as the colours are concerned, we purchase natural dyes from Mumbai. We do not bake them so that it can dissolve in the water easily,” says Saravanakumar.
Yoganantham says, “It is very challenging to decide on the new designs every year. The only demand that customers have is that the idol should be different from the previous years. This year, there’s a huge demand for Veera Sivaji Vinayagar and Mangala Vinayagar.” A Sumathi, another idol-maker says, “This year’s specialty is Kalinganarthana Vinayagar, Nataraja Thandava Vinayagar, Jhansi Rani Vinayagar and Vinayagar on a swan. After the success of the film Baahubali, we have got plenty of orders for Baahubali Vinayagar, which we will be making next year. There is a demand for Riddhi Siddhi Vinayagar, too.”
M Amudhavalli, who specialises in making smaller idols, has roped in many school dropouts from her locality to help her. “Most of the workers who help me during the season are unemployed youngsters. These boys have been a great pillar of support. I sell the idols at a wholesale rate, and then they are sold to respective customers. While a half-foot idol costs around ` 70, a 13-feet idol costs up to `20,000.”
While Coimbatoreans have been experimenting with their idols, Tiruppur idol maker R Senthil Sabathy, who has been making Ganesha idols for the last 25 years, says that he sticks to the tradition. “We specialise in Valampuri and Idampuri Vinayagar. The demand is always high for Idampuri Vinayagar, as the Valampuri Vinayagar is worshipped only by a certain community. My idols range from three feet to six feet. Our idols are delivered to Salem, Dharmapuri and Hosur. Unlike the idol makers in Coimbatore, we don’t make kolu idols.”
Interestingly, though these workers make the idols for others, they do not celebrate Vinayagar Chathurthi. “We ensure that the idols are delivered without any damage. The entire family pitches in to help ensure a smooth flow of work during the festival time. On the day of the festival, we are so exhausted that all we want to do is sleep,” says Yoganantham.
“There is a feeling of emptiness for a week after the idols are delivered. After some time, we start working on the designs for next year,” concludes Saravanakumar.