Dussehra in Delhi: Artisans complain of poor sales of Ravana’s effigies

Artisans hopes of revival go up in pandemic flames

Eyetalk

October 12, 2021

/ By / New Delhi



The most commonly recognised image of Dussehra is the sight of effigies of the demon king Ravana and his brothers Meghnad and Kumbhakarna going up in flames as the Hindu deity Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman shoot fire arrows at them. Within a matter of minutes, amidst loud cheering and applause by the thousands of viewers, the three effigies burn down to the ground, symbolising their death at the hands of Lord Rama and his forces of the good that vanquishes the evil.

Until 2019, before the pandemic hit India and crippled its economy, these effigies were a common sight all across the country and almost every locality boasting of its own Ravana Dahan or burning Ravana programme as the culmination of the 10-day festival called Navratri. Not only was it an important part of a key Hindu festival, but burning of the effigies also kept thousands of artisans, who make the effigies, employed.

In New Delhi, these tall effigies with giant-sized heads, torsos, arms and legs are prepared by skilled artisans mainly concentrated around Rajouri Garden in the western part of the city where they have been living for decades. The artisans say this year they are worried about the poor sales, coming on the back of a bare 2020 when public Dussehra celebrations were banned due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It takes 3 days and 4-5 people to make one effigy, using material like bamboo, gray paper, glazed paper, paints and other decorations,” Harsaroop Kashyap, a resident of Rajouri Garden who has been making Ravana effigies for over a decade, tells Media India Group.

“Earlier, the effigies were pre-booked months ago, whereas such is not the case now,” says Kashyap. He says that the demand for effigies has tumbled down even as a number of new players have entered the business. This has led to a collapse in prices. Earlier, an effigy would that fetch more than INR 10,000 is often being sold in distress sales for INR 5000 or even lower.

“The situation was far better in the pre-pandemic times. Our income has almost halved now after the complete shutdown of business in 2020. We are not sure if we will ever be able to earn the same as before,” he adds.

Vijayadashami popularly known as Dussehra, a festival that marks the victory of good over evil is to be celebrated on Friday, October 15.

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