Idols inspired by Ajanta Caves at the workshop of Ranchi’s Pal brothers on Friday. Telegraph picture
Fertile soil of creativity. That’s what this Durga Puja is for arguably the capital’s most famous clay artisans, brothers Ram and Rakesh Pal.
Like every year, the brothers’ workshop on Hazaribagh Road is abuzz with activity. But both say that this year is special for two reasons — offbeat creations and a stress on the use of non-hazardous materials to make idols.
“We have sold around 22 idols this year, which is usual. But what marks this season as special is our creative high that, moreover, was backed by our clients, the Puja samiti members. In some cases, we experimented with offbeat designs. Most important, we stressed on eco-friendliness in real terms, using clay and water colour,” said sexagenarian Ram, the elder brother.
Younger brother Rakesh said they experimented with idols that were modelled on those found inside Ajanta caves. They also focussed on traditional daker saaj with pristine white ornaments and attire crafted out of thermocol. They also experimented with a single-colour Durga, with the palette being orange.
While the brothers are ecstatic that they displayed their skills to the hilt — “kneading clay to make folds of the sari to give the drape effect of fabric is a challenge” — it also spells good news for environment watchers.
In conventional idols where Durga, her children and even their mounts are decked up in bling, the golden jewellery, satin attire and weapons of tin are non-biodegradable, which means that after immersion, they harm water bodies.
That is not all.
In recent times, most artisans gave up clay for convenience — the more malleable Plaster of Paris, which neither mixes in water nor with soil. Many use toxic paints for colouring that destroy aquatic flora and fauna.
In aware states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, non-eco-friendly idols have come under fire. But in Jharkhand, though organisers pay lip-service to green Puja, actual eco-friendly measures are rare.
But things seem to be changing with artisans like the Pals going back to basics — clay, minimal bling and water colours.
“This is one of our Ajanta-inspired creations,” Ram says, showing a 7ft Durga idol.
The tableau of the mother, her lion and the demon Mahisharura looks arrestingly prehistoric, similar to idols found inside the 2nd Century BC caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
“We have used eco-friendly paint. Environmental consciousness is vital,” said Ram.
Rakesh said the Ajanta-inspired idols were more affordable too. “Their cost ranges between Rs 40,000 and Rs 60,000. The price of a conventional idol starts from upward of a lakh,” he said.
Those opting for tradition bought the all-white daker saaj idols, said Ram. “Our orange idols were also appreciated,” he smiled.
Thanking his buyers for supporting their offbeat creations, he said: “Eco-friendly Puja helps save god’s creations. Isn’t that the best reason to go green during the divine mother’s homecoming?”