An artisan works on a Durga idol in Kadma last week.
Picture by Bhola Prasad
When it comes to Durga Puja, tradition scores over innovation even if it is the environment in question.
Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti, which monitors Durga Puja celebrations across the steel city, has yet again failed to convince idol makers to use water colours instead of the normal, synthetic ones that are toxic in nature and cause damage to water bodies and aquatic life during immersion.
The artisans have refused to use the less harmful colours, citing the high costs involved and objections from puja committee members and devotees, who prefer idols with the right kind of radiance and finery.
“For years, we have been trying to safeguard the environment by convincing the idol makers not to use synthetic colours while painting the deity, but all in vain. The artisans have their reasons though. Firstly, water colours automatically raise the expenditure. This is because these colours are available in Calcutta at high prices,” said Rambabu Singh, secretary of the samiti.
While the locally made synthetic colours are available for Rs 150-Rs 170 a litre, water colours cost at least five times more.
Moreover, there are logistics issues also as artisans complain that water colours cannot bring the requisite radiance to the idols.
“If you notice, the faces of the deities shine in the glow of light. Only synthetic colours can bring that radiance. If that look is missing, the customers will not buy the idols and ultimately, artisans will suffer,” Singh pointed out.
President of Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti Tarachand Mohanty added: “We are used to see the goddess’s face glowing and radiant. That cannot change in a day. We have to honour our tradition and artisans cannot afford to fall prey to the new ways.”
Even if the artisans agree to shift to water colours, they have to use varnish, which also contains oil, to bring the shine on the deity’s face.
The samiti has spoken to most idol makers in the city, but they said the high investments were not worth the endeavour as bargaining plays a vital role while buying idols.
“I don’t know about the future, but at present no one will accept the suggested changes even if it’s the environment in question. This is because alternative colours can never give the desired look to Durga idols. This year, we have started our work much before so that the idols are readied on time. Almost all artisans have their customers and know what they want. We have readied the structures and will just do them up in keeping with the demand,” said Kedar Mullick, an artisan in Kadma.