New Delhi(PTI): The pandal glitters with colour and lights and the goddess gleams under the chandeliers. In the shadows are the people who have moulded the idols, and adorned the canopies which house them.
For the four-day festival of Durga Puja, thousands of people have been working overtime to put everything in place.
For many, this is the season for joyousness — for the workers, this is the time of tension and toil.
“Puja is as hectic and important as a daughter’s wedding. You have to make sure everything goes without a hitch,” says idol-maker Manik Pal.
He and his team of 20 ‘murtikaars’ (idol makers) worked relentlessly, sometimes sleeping for only four hours a day, as they shaped 50 Durga idols in time for the Pujas, which began yesterday.
Deadlines, he points out, are all important. “You can’t shift the date or ‘mahurat’ of the ceremony,” Pal says.
The 48-year-old artiste, like many others of his profession, comes from Krishnanagar in West Bengal. His family has always made idols, and he joined the work when he was only 18.
The price of the set of idol — Durga, Saraswati, Laxmi, Kartik, Ganesh and Mahishasur — sells in lakhs.
The artiste says the price of the idols depends on the kind of jewellery Durga wears, which is intricately carved in the statue. “So if they want an idol with Rs 50,000 ‘gehna’ (jewellery), the total cost of the idol easily crosses lakhs. Also, we only use eco-friendly material to make the ‘murtis’ (idols), which can be expensive,” he says.
Pal adds that the work enables him to travel across the country. In the last one year, he has been to Varanasi, Kolkata, cities in Odisha and Tripura, and is now in New Delhi.
Goutam, who works on beautifying the ‘pandal’ before the Puja, says while ‘Navratra’ brings families together, it is that time of the year when work keep them away from their homes.
He, however, is looking forward to this year’s Puja as a good samaritan has partly sponsored his family’s fare from Kolkata to Delhi.
The 35-year-old artisan hails from Kolkata and works with the main artistes to beautify the pandal in CR Park’s B-Block Puja Samiti pandal. He worked on it for over a month.
Goutam, who like the others, inherited the profession from his father, has rented a place for his family till Navami.
“I’ll take them for Delhi darshan. We’re planning to visit Qutub Minar and the Lotus Temple,” he says.
For nine months of the year, Goutam is in Kolkata, where he runs a lassi and ice-cream stall. For the remaining three months, he works on puja pandals.
Bittoo, in his early 30s, works as the gardener at the B-Block Puja Samiti ground and is involved in every small and big task, including preparing ‘bhog’ for Durga and setting up the sound system for the ongoing festival.
He belongs to Katihar in Bihar but asserts “I am a Bengali”. His family is in the village and he says he likes Delhi’s Puja celebrations as he has formed strong friendships in the last 16 years that he has spent here.
“People know me here and I know them. I have friends here. I eagerly wait for the festival to arrive every year.”
Bittoo lives in Okhla and has two children who are back home in his village. He plans to bring them to the capital in January next year and put them in a school here.
Suman Purkaish, 23, is working for CR Park’s Cooperative society puja, and has etched Gondi Tribal art on the side panels of the pandal.
Like many other artistes, Purkaish travels across the country during festivals. He says he prefers working in Delhi than hometown Kolkata.
“Kolkata spends a lot during Puja. But often when it comes to paying a fair price, people do not give the right amount of money for all the hard work. A party owed us Rs 5 lakh and didn’t pay the amount after my group finished the work,” he rues.