After the month May anybody visiting Bhandari’s houses in this little town Karki of Uttarakannada district , has to pass through narrow passages between the Ganesha idols . Most of the family members are busy with Ganesha idol making activities .
Manjunath Bhandari who is one of the family member , says don’t know exactly who started making Ganesha idols in their family . This art has come long way through generations . Before Ganesha festival celebrated as National festivals Karki Bhandari’s made idols for only neighboring houses, relatives and friends but now they are making these idols for public places as well.
If asked Mr Bhandari how did he learn, he shows his brothers and kids of the family who are busy with either working on idols or helping their fathers and says ” that is how I learnt ! “
” We make idols and sell them . We don’t do extra idols . Mostly all of the idols are ordered in advance . Orders start from the month of April to even two days before festival. But we carefully accept only few to our capacity. People come here with different requests. Some requests turn out very funny but we have to do it to keep the art alive and popular.” says Manjunath .
For Bhandaris idol making is not livelihood . Idols are required only during festivals and not round the year. They have their own business such as farming, grocery shops . Some are even work in government offices but after coming home they continue the art during demand time.
“We are not born artists. We do not have idea of shapes and colors. We practiced this by observation . Elders inspire the younger generation and they continue. We have to do everything right from collecting the clay from distant place to buying paints , making idols , painting them everything. Apart from this we have to do other family requirement as well.”
Today public festivals in India are not simple old style get-together-have-fun events. They are now more of a stress busters, social and religious movements, organizing and politically motivated events .More people, schools , organizations , political parties , NGOs are celebrating the festivals in their own style. There was day when festival would mean happy, fun, relatives, heavy colourful lunch. But today a public festival means noise, processions, traffic jams, rising prices , fights . People need everything fast and at cheaper price. So obviously the artistic handmade natural clay idols are loosing their values and moulded plaster of paris idols which are faster and cheaper taking over this art.
Manjunath Bhandari says ” few years before I used to give so much time to make the idols look artistic . For example the ornaments of idols look so natural and divine . But today people demand for speed and less money which is not good for the future of art. A good Ganesha idol will have perfect ratios , heavily ornamented thrones , jeweleries much more.”
‘this year my right arm is operated for a frequent pain and advised not to work too much but how can I not do idols this year ? Between pain I am doing this .One of my family member Bhandari is a station master at Konkan railway . He really need not make idols but you can see still he is busy with making idols and today is his night shift at station! “ these two examples were sufficient to show how dedicated are Bhandari families on making idols.
In the middle of fading art and booming technology the younger generation in Bhandari’s families still promising. One can see daughters ,sons helping their elders to finish the idols. Bhandaris are still confident that though the demand has changed but it is not dead.
” I cannot assure this art has a future for our younger generations. Kids have more options these days . They can go to colleges , become engineers , doctors, do masters and earn money in lacs and why should we stop them and say learn how to make Ganesha idols and earn through . Can you imagine the difference ?” Asks Mr. Bhandari.
He was totally right. Why one should opt a harder way when there is a easy way which is study well and get a good job in cities .For those who are already earning it is easy to say “to keep the art alive “ ! But is it really possible for a young kid to take art against heavy earning engineering or doctor ?
We need little more responsibility to recognize the art and encourage them. People should demand artistically superior idols though it costs a little more. Artists are always encouraged when their art bought for a good value. Felicitating an artist do encourage but buying their art will encourage them more and demand more contribution from them.
My other ” Chat with an artist” articles