A Vishwakarma idol being carried from a Dhanbad workshop on Monday. Picture by Gautam Dey
The divine architect has hit a new low on mortal turf.
Grappling with economic downturn, the twin industrial towns of Jamshedpur and Adityapur are conveniently compromising on the height of Vishwakarma idols to balance festival costs.
If 10ft was the height of pride earlier, workshops and ancillary units are not bargaining for more than 3ft this year, with block closures a reality and lay-offs imminent.
“Tall was once synonymous with the fame of a firm,” recalled septuagenarian Shiv Pujan Singh, a senior functionary of Singhbhum Varishth Nagrik Manch. “The slump has dwarfed even the architect of gods now,” he said.
According to Singh, there were times when the height of Vishwakarma idols triggered unofficial rivalry between small-scale industries. “It was like an unannounced competition. But today, the puja has become a formality, with units being forced to scrimp and save,” he added.
President of Adityapur Small Industries Association R.K. Sinha agreed. “The pomp and show is missing. We have cut down on feasts and are spending less on idols too.”
The current market price is Rs 400 for a 1.5ft idol and Rs 7,000 for a 5ft one, arguably the tallest of ’em all.
Sushil Kumar — an employee of Tata Steel’s fire services department — was spotted in Kasidih on Monday, haggling for a less than 3ft idol, priced around Rs 700. “We have been told not to spend much. The taller the idol, the higher the price,” he said.
Artisans explained that an idol less than three feet can be made from moulds, while the taller ones require wooden frames for support and hence are expensive.
“Earlier, we sold more than 10ft tall Vishwakarma idols. This time, we are sticking to 5ft,” said Babu Pal of Kasidih.
Ghorabandha artisan S.C. Gorai, who has been in the trade for three decades, said he had sold some 65 idols this year and all less than 5ft. “Small is big (business) this year,” he summed it up.