The popularity of the devi goddess is lesser than that of elephant god, Ganesh in the city. This was obvious by the reduced size of Vijay Khatu’s idol-making workshop at Parel, which is now half of what it was when we visited it during Ganesh Chaturthi.
Located at Central Railway’s Locomotive workshop ground on Dr Ambedkar Road, Khatu has been in the family business of making Ganesh and devi idols for nearly 45 years. “The workshop was started by my father Ramkrishna Vishwanath Khatu (known as RV Khatu) on August 15, 1947,” he says. Every year, the workshop produces almost 300 Ganesh idols and 75-80 devi idols (in Gujarati and Bengali styles).
Daily, 59-year-old Khatu, monitors the work of almost 65 workers till 11 pm at this workshop. Workers, who have travelled especially from Kolkata, are busy at the other end of the workshop making the frames of the idol in the traditional way with grass and bamboo. Khatu takes several calls in between talking to us, ranging from customers trying to haggle with cost of the idols, to fixing on delivery dates, “The biggest challenge are the shooting realty prices. I am bored of complaining about it. They have stuffed clay in their ears!” The biggest change in the idol over the years is that people prefer bigger murtis these days, “When my dad started out, both Ganesh and devi idols would not be as big as what they are today.” Unlike him, Khatu’s son does not wish to carry on the mantle, and stays in London, while post the festive season, Khatu undertakes production work for events and interior and civil work projects across the city.
While Khatu works round the clock on devi idols, immediately after Ganpati immersions, preparations of the Durga Bari Samiti of the Tejpal Hall pujo mandal are in full swing. This year, they are working on a theme that is a tribute to the 100 years of Indian cinema. “According to Hindu philosophy, the goddess is worshipped in different forms, it has 108 names. In Maharashtra, she is worshipped in the form of Ambe Maa, who has four hands and rides a tiger. Bengalis worship Maa Durga, who has ten hands representing the ten strengths and Astras (weapons) given to her by the Devas to end the anarchy of the Asuras and she rides a lion. Maa Durga comes to her maika (mother’s home) with her four children on earth and hence you will see a total of five idols at pujo mandals — Saraswati, Karthik, Durga, Laxmi and Ganesh,” says Indrani Malkani, a member and organiser with Durga Bari Samiti.
Durga Bari Samiti, which conducts the city’s oldest Durga Puja at Tejpal Hall is now in it’s 83rd year. Chandan Bhattacharjee, Chairman of the Social and Cultural Committee of the Samiti says, “Hooghly is an extension of the Ganga River. And, to make the idol, the clay from Hooghly is specially brought to the city every year to keep with the tradition.”