Mumbai: Every year, Ganpati Bappa pays a visit between August and September. Being one of the most important celebrations of Maharashtra, preparations begin well in advance, as major mandals start placing orders for idols six months ahead of the date.
By the end of April, most idol makers have received their orders and embarked on the process of crafting out the orders. But who would have factored in a pandemic into their calculations?
The coronavirus outbreak followed by the nationwide lockdown from March 25, extended twice, has reduced all of mankind's best-laid plans to dust. Many idol makers are yet to receive a single order. Given the rate at which the number of positive cases is increasing daily, it is uncertain what sort of celebration will be possible at all.
This has traditionally been an event which draws crowds and the best way to keep the pandemic at bay is social distancing, so a balance will have to be struck between faith and the need of the hour. Akhilesh More is a third-generation idol maker, his family having been in the business for more than six decades now.
Like every year, this year also, he has finished making the rough draft of hundreds of idols, currently getting baked in the summer sun at his Parel workshop. The baking process needs to be completed every year before the arrival of the monsoon. However, this year More is worried whether a single piece of his idol will be sold from his workshop.
"Every year, my idols are sold to clients in Mumbai and Pune and as things stand right now, both cities are Covid-19 hotspots. As a result, I have not received a single order from my regular clients so far," said More.
"I have finished baking as many as 300 idols. However, seeing the number of cases rising, I am not sure whether even a single piece will be sold this year," he said, apprehensively. Apart from Plaster of Paris, many idols are also made of clay, which comes from Gujarat.
But currently, state borders are closed in the lockdown and it has become impossible to procure clay. The workers are also worried that if the lockdown is extended for another month, the monsoon will have set in, which is not the best time for idol making, as the baking process needs to be completed by summer.
"If the lockdown extends for one more month, we will face immense economic pressure because it's almost impossible to construct new idols during the monsoon season as we need to bake the clay under the sun," said Kalpesh Kadam, a second-generation sculptor who has workshops is Kalyan and Malad.
"Other than idols, we also make earthen lamps. Navratri, Ganpati and Diwali festivals are the time of the year when we make enough money to last us through the year. But now, everything has come to a standstill due to the pandemic," said Kadam.