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The art of sculpting Ganesh idols

The form of Ganesha is a sculptural marvel. With the body of a human being and the head of an elephant, it proportions are prescribed by strictures and artisans all over India have been honing these to perfection. Athough, Ganesha is also the one deity that is most tolerant of artistic liberty, being transformed into various new avatars, the beauty and elegance of the scriptural form is immediately evident in the work of traditional artisans.    

A dying craft

In the town of Pen, in Maharashtra almost every other family has a tradition of sculpture. However, with the advent of Plaster of Paris, the craft moved from being handmade to using moulds and creating 'prints' - duplicates of the work of master craftsmen. The number of artisans who knew how to work with clay and scupt their own idols diminished greatly as it shifted from being handicraft into industry.

Of late, those sculptors that have managed to keep the tradition alive are also finding it more and more difficult to find labourers to assist their production - even simply to create duplicates - and the entire craft faces the risk of becoming obsolete. A few years ago one even heard of fibreglass Ganeshas being produced cheaply in China being sold for the festival.    

Encouraging a shift to natural materials

eCoexist has been consistently working with the idol makers to make them aware of the polluting impacts of Plaster of Paris and to encourage them to move back into using natural clay or to start experimenting with other ecosensitive materials such as paper mache.

Most artisans, do not have the capital nor the luxury of being involved in pure research and also will not take the risk of trying out new materials. As the ban on PoP gets delayed every year, some of them also believe that they will never have to change to another substance.    

The first change that eCoexist has been successful in bringing about, is the use of natural pigments such as turmeric and red earth - to replace toxic chemical paints.

We are now working on experiementing with paper mache as we feel that even natural clay being non renewable is not really a long term solution.


Creating a market for natural idols

To demonstrate to the sculptors the financial viability of natural clay idols, eCoexist has been creating a niche market for these idols in several large cities in India. We expect that the success of our idols will motivate more sculptors to shift back to natural clay. Eventually.






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