New Delhi:: As effigies of demon king Ravana were going up in flames in several parts of the city on Friday, the mood was a bit sombre in Titarpur. Residents of this west Delhi locality cannot bear to watch him treated this way. For them, arguably the largest effigy makers in the country, the 10-headed Lankan king is more than bread and butter; it’s an extension of their emotional being.
For the iconic effigy makers here, Ravana is a “blessing”. They worship him and feel bad when he goes up in flames on the tenth day of Dussehra that marks the triumph of good over evil.
“We worship him because he brings good fortune for us. Ravana could be a demon for the world, but for us he is annadata (source of livelihood). Because of this attachment to, we never watch them burning,” says 65-year-old Subhas, who has inherited this decades-old profession from his forefathers.
The 45-feet effigies cost around Rs 4,000 per piece to the manufacturer and it is sold for anything between Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000. Most of the business happens during the last two or three days of the Ramleela. The effigies of Meghnad and Ravana’s brother Kumbhakarana sell like hot cakes across the country too.
The preparations for Vijaydashmi begin much earlier. After Rakshbandhan in August, Titarpur comes to life and becomes a hub of the giant effigies of the demon king of Lanka. Artists start giving the shape to Ravana’s bulging eyes, broad lips and curly moustaches. Bamboo frames and colorful paper-mache representations of the demon king become a common view in the narrow lanes of Titarpur.
Everyone from carpenters, painters, tea-stall owners, vegetable sellers to small-time mechanics, part-time drivers become get involved in effigy-making in the village. “The iconic effigies are results of the combined talent of these people,” Rajesh aka Khanna Ravanawalla, who has been in this profession for the past 30 years.
“All members of my family are busy making effigies. We wait for this time to come as it boosts our regular income. Because of the tough competition in the market, we have to come up with new ideas every year,” he says.
According to Rajesh, only three families which make effigies are originally from Titrapur. "The rest are migrants from Bihar, Gujarat and West Bengal who came here in search of job and settled with us," he says.
According to Rajesh, they are blessed by Ravan Baba, a businessman dealing with funeral items, who lived in their village more than 50 years ago. The legend goes like this: A man from Sikandarabad got settled in Titarpur and sold funeral items for his living and gradually started making the Ravan effigies. The children in the village sat next to him even as he tore the bamboo and gradually learned the art by seeing him.
60-year-old Mahendra, an effigy maker also recounts the legend of this man who started it all in the village. "He used to sell funeral items for a living. He was the one who started making effigies. Children used to sit with him and learn how to tear bamboo to make skeleton. I also leant the art of effigy-making from him. He used to make only 10 Ravanas. The art was passed on generations to generations. Our children are now learning from us,” says Mahendra.
A large number of people in the area still run shops that sell funeral items. Required raw material like bamboo sticks, coloured papers and glue are bought from Khari Baoli in Old Delhi. “We generally make small or medium sized effigies as demand for those is high. Large effigies are made only on orders only,” he added.
Skyrocketing prices of raw materials, high labour cost and falling demands have now made the business less profitable. “Now, the profit margin has gone down. We have to suffer losses as well if all effigies are not sold,” says Mahendra. And uncertainties in this business are likely to rise. “People do not consider this business respectable and therefore, our children don’t want to continue with it,” he complained.
Updated Date: Oct 04, 2014 17:08 PM